What makes somebody skilled or elite at math? Do they have to be Asian? Do they have to appear smart? Sadly, I know neither of that is true based on experience.
This semester I am taking Physics 218 (Physics 2425) and it has made me think a lot about how lacking my math skills are. Physics is an extremely difficult class that obviously relies on good math skills. I’m not saying that I can’t (or can) handle it, but I feel that falling behind will be inevitable, no matter how hard I try. I feel that in order to learn more in Physics, I have to take the extra time to learn a lot of math principles and concepts that I haven’t learned before. It really sucks. But why am I so horrible at math? A computer dork that’s horrible at math… well imagine that.
To be honest, throughout high school, I always tried to find loopholes around anything math related. Algebra I and II was never difficult, they were actually very easy. I suppose that geometry wasn’t difficult either, but I failed to pay attention which in return resulted in a low passing grade. I took Physics in the 11th grade and passed just fine on paper, but I know that realistically that I would have failed. For physics, we had a first year teacher that had very little faith in his teaching abilities. You could easily tell that he wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. Every day in class, students would just get in their little social group circles and talk throughout the entire class, paying no attention to the teacher. He would try to teach but sadly, nobody really listened. He didn’t try to tell students to stop talking and had absolutely no control. The guy quit by the end of the year. To this day, I don’t understand how I passed high school physics, but I know that I did not deserve it. I have to shamefully admit that I learned absolutely nothing in high school physics, literally. I knew I was bad at math, which is why I chose to take precalculus during my senior year. It was optional, but I needed credit hours in order to have an early release from school every day. I had a sweet and confident teacher that had very effective teaching abilities. She was good, but regrettably, I didn’t care enough. I did ridiculously horrible on the first semester exam and ended the semester with a barely hanging-from-a-thread passing grade. I know I would have done bad on the second semester exam too, but fortunately, I passed the final math Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test with commended performance the year before. Wow, how did I do so good on that? Well, other than the fact that it’s the easiest math test in the world, I really don’t know. But having done that guaranteed an A on the final exam, so I didn’t have to take it. Thus, precalculus was done and finished with.
For my first year at community college, I took College Algebra (MATH 1414) and I feel that it was a very broken class. I didn’t care about lecture. The professor must have had ADHD or something because he would spend over half of the time talking about is personal life. Homework was done online and because of that, I found loopholes and workarounds to the answer instead of taking the time to learn and understand the concept of the problem in order to solve it. The final was an open book supervised exam done online. The book was the only reason that I passed. I searched the index for the type of problem, looked at the example, and plugged in the numbers from the exam question into the example. I passed the class with a B, which was later curved to an A. Because the community college that I attended did not have any higher math course, I never looked at math again until arriving here at TAMU. Last semester, I decided to take precalculus as a buffer before entering calculus. Big mistake. My friend Phil even told me that it was nothing but a trap but I didn’t believe him and learned the hard way. Having the worst rated professor in university absolutely did not help either. I tried to visit him for office hours but all he did was tell me that “I should know this already”, and that “it’s in the book.” We didn’t have a physical book, it was an online textbook that explained basic principles, but failed to give enough of a clear explanation or examples to help solve the more complex problems found on quizzes and exams. But then again, I apparently just “should have already known it.” Suggesting that we should drop his class did not help either. His lack of help and extreme discouragement led me to drop it. Could I have passed? Perhaps, but I’m tired of these workarounds. It’s time to stop dodging bullets, let’s just bite it this time.
I’m not using my lack of math skills as an excuse to not try my hardest in Physics. Without a doubt, I have been trying my hardest, and I will continue to do so. I am ahead in homework assignments and whatnot but I know that isn’t enough for me to do good on quizzes and exams. Whether I make it or not, only time will tell. We’ll see.
I can just take it again later if it doesn’t work out.