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Gary DobsonMy Struggle With Math

by Gary R. Dobson

Would math take down my hard-won G.P.A.?

If anyone had told me that at the age of 45 I would be standing in front of a mathematics professor and begging her to allow me to enter her class, I would have told them that intensive therapy was their best choice of action. However, two months ago, that is precisely what I was doing. And it would be the start of an interesting and ultimately rewarding journey.

You see, in early January of this year, I decided that it was high time for me to return to the world of academic studies. It wasn't that I longed to be in the daily company of young people who were bent on: a) dressing in a grungy manner while bemoaning the fact that homework assignments would interfere with their dating practices, or b) wasting as much of their parent's financial resources as possible. (Certainly, not all students fall into these two categories, but there are a lot of them out there.)

No, my sole motivation was to complete a mission that I had chosen long ago to put on hold, perhaps, as I thought at the time, forever. This was the year I finally decided to re-enter the world of academia in an effort to earn a degree and emerge as an educated naturalist.

Now, to my way of thinking at the time, I knew that it would be necessary to study English and various other subjects, but I could not fathom that I would have to force my rather aged brain into attempting to comprehend the complexities of math. I was convinced that the curriculum administrators of my local college would agree that since I had not, during the past two decades, used any semblance of mathematical equations, there would be no reason for me to study geometry and algebra at this stage of my life. I was wrong, dead wrong. Thus it was, in late June, that I found myself searching for a math course that would occupy the next two months of my summer.

You might think that registering for a math course would be a fairly simple matter, but as I've much to my chagrin discovered, very little comes easy to me. Such was the case when I attempted to sign up for Math 108 (the only course that did not require me to suffer through a qualifying exam). Here is a faithful rendition of what occurred on that dreary day in late June:

“Mr. Dobson, I'm sorry but you cannot register for this course.”

“Why not?” I, with an overwhelming sense of dread, asked the registration representative.

“Sir, you have not presented me with a transcript of your high school algebra and geometry grades. These are required if you are to be permitted to enroll in Math 108.”

“Yes, I…I…I know, but I did contact a representative of my high school's records office. Truly I did, but the news wasn't good. You see, the school suffered a flood in 1972 and, well, all the records from my graduating year were destroyed. But, look at my current record! It is very, very good!

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