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The Library

My Struggle With Math
(Continued from 2)

I felt my eyes welling up with tears as I said, “Oh, thank you, thank you! Yes, please contact him.”

Luckily, following 15 minutes of listening to my now well practiced beseechment, Pete conceded. “Gary, I think the material presented in this course will be over your head, ” he cautioned me, “but you are obviously a good student and perhaps will manage to squeak out a 'C' for your efforts. If, however, you are heading for a downfall, I'll allow you to withdraw from the course. That might be the only avenue available to you."

One week later, I found myself pouring through a textbook that could only be described as full of the most confusing terms and problems I'd ever imagined a human being could demonically dream up. None of what I read made any sense to my befuddled brain and I was in the process of summoning up the courage to ask Pete for a withdrawal form.

Just then, a voice emanating from deep within my heart whispered, “Gary, you can do it. You will make it through the hellish fires of math and emerge with an 'A' for your efforts. Just don't say to yourself, 'I'll never, throughout the rest of my life, need this stuff.' You might just come to enjoy math. Wouldn't that be something?”

“Yes, voice,” I thought, “that would be something. In fact, that would be a miracle. Actually, voice, you are out of your mind! I will, however, give this a try and do my best.”

Over the next two months, I not only listened to the voice, but also to Pete's wonderful teachings. In addition, I devoted what seemed to be hundreds of hours to my homework assignments and preparation for a tests.

Two weeks ago, as I strode into the classroom, I found myself in a state of anxiety regarding whether I'd be able to pull off one more 'A,' but when the final exam was placed before me, it was instantly obvious I had nothing to fear. The hours of work coupled with a remarkable sense of self-confidence were about to pay off.

I emerged from my experiences with Math 108 as the top student in the class. In fact, I was the only person to get an 'A' for the course. I'm proud of my achievement and will always remember what it took to get to that level of success. I'm also proud of the fact that I refused to “look the other way” when it came to summoning up the courage to throw myself into the den of difficulty that math can present to many non-traditional and even traditional students.

I don’t know if the math department of the college that I attend will experience a state of anarchy as a result of allowing me to enter Math 108, but I do know that a certain associate dean of math and a professor named Pete will always be fondly remembered as the heroes of my struggle with math.

Gary Dobson is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois.

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