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The Library

My Struggle With Math
(Continued from 1)

“I'm an honors student and in possession of a 4.0 GPA. Surely this indicates that I'm quite intelligent and would breeze through something as basic and unchallenging as Math 108.” Of course, I didn't believe the statement about the math course to be true and neither did the registration representative.

“I'm afraid that won't cut it, Mr. Dobson. Congratulations on your fine academic achievements in other courses, but math is an entirely different matter. I can, however, offer you one possible solution to your dilemma. If you can convince a math teacher to…well…look the other way regarding your lack of proof that you did in fact complete algebra and geometry courses so many years ago, you will be able to register for Math 108.”

Armed with the knowledge that I am a very convincing (well, sort-of) person, I responded, “That's great. I'll be back in about one hour.”

I raced down the hall and, within minutes, found myself conducting a> conversation with a young lady who eyed me with a great deal of suspicion.

“Mr. Dobson, I have been teaching math for quite a long time and am fully aware of how difficult an eight week Math 108 course can be for a non-traditional student, even one who possesses such a fine academic record as yours.”

“Oh sure, I can understand that, but I'm different. I know that I'm going to be a math star. In fact,” I said, with a profound degree of falsehood, “I will probably eventually become a math professor! Ah, yes, I do love math and the wonders that it offers!”

“You are a heck of a speaker Mr. Dobson, but I'm not buying your story. You can't prove that you, in high school, passed math and I'm not about to allow you to enter my class. If I did, 'look the other way,' it might result in anarchy in the math department. I'll never allow that to happen. Good day to you, sir.”

As she marched off down the hall, I made a mental note to look up the word “anarchy” in a dictionary. I wanted to make sure that it wasn't only concerned with the study of math.

Two days later, I was still trying to find a math teacher who would agree to “look the other way.” It was then that I decided to throw myself on what I hoped would be the mercy of the associate dean of math.

“Sir,” I pleaded, while momentarily considering whether to prostrate myself in front of him, “Please, please help me! I need to enroll in a Math 108 course. For the love of God, please help me! I can't bear the thought of dealing with a pre-qualifying exam, I just can't! If I have to, I'll…I'll…well, it won't be a pretty sight and my life will be in tatters. Oh, can't you find someone who will allow me to enter this class?”

The associate dean eyed me with a look of gentle understanding and, undoubtedly, embarrassment at the vision of a grown man quivering in front of him begging like a penniless person in desperate need of a loan. “Mr. Dobson,” he sighed, following a lengthy period of contemplation, “I believe in you. I don't know whether you'll be able to pass Math 108, but you deserve a chance to prove yourself. Look, there is one professor who might, as you say, 'look the other way.' I can't tell him to accept you into the class, but I'll call Pete and leave the decision to him.”


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