Mathematically Declined

I married Mr. Embee for his math skills. And his love of food, but mostly his math skills. The message was conveyed to me early in life by my parents: “Bring new math genes into the family.” I did my duty.

Now, someone–probably my sister (hey, K)–will comment here that I got through calculus in high school. Technically, yes, I sat in a calculus class. But I am pretty bad at math.

I peaked in third grade. I was unbelievably awesome at multiplication tables. AMAZING. Plus, I am a huge–HUGE–fan of any visual display of how well I’m doing, so seeing my teacher’s wall-length chart depicting the class race to complete all our timed math tests was the most beautiful thing I’d encountered in all my eight years.

I was the best. Like, WAY the best. (Hey, it was my academic high point, let me bask.)

After that things started to gradually go downhill. Then, in eighth grade, math just stopped making sense. I mean, what were LETTERS doing in there, anyway? By high school, it was hopeless.

In geometry I learned to fold really angular notes with commentary on our drama-filled lives. “Oh my gosh is John going to ask you to the Christmas dance? You are sooooooo lucky to be going out with a junior!!”

I don’t know what trigonometry was.

In pre-calc, my teacher, God bless her, really tried to help back things up and teach me math. But when she realized that my logical next thought to a word problem on which train would first reach its destination was to question the psychological motivation of the conductors . . . well, even she realized I was a lost cause.

My calculus teacher was more of a “live and let live” guy. By then I was answering math problems with essays, which amused him. You know, instead of proving an equation I would start:
“I don’t know what to do here, but I remember you doing a problem like this in class. It was a Tuesday and you were wearing your yellow and brown plaid shirt. . . .”

He’d give me partial credit for that. Seriously.

Other times I’d actually know how to start solving the problem, I just couldn’t finish it. I’d do what I could and then write, “Hey, not bad, eh?” I’d get darned near full credit for that move.

Still, I was doing pathetically in the class. So when the end of the fall semester rolled around, I went to Mr. Calc.

“Look. We both know I have no business here. I just need to pass this semester. Then I’ll quit. Colleges will accept me before they realize I’ve dropped calculus in the spring. You pass me, and I swear I’ll never set foot in a higher mathematics class as long as I live.”

He stared hard at me. “Do you promise?”

And so I searched for a husband with math skills. I’d like to say I knew the odds of passing those good genes on to Sally, but I didn’t do very well in statistics, either.

This week when Sally, at barely 3, counted backwards from 10 AND counted to 100 by tens, I fell down on my knees and praised the left-brain gods. I’ve saved the family line.


7 responses to “Mathematically Declined

  1. LOL Love it love it love it

  2. lol!
    Don’t get too excited yet…speaking as a teacher of math to children, it could be that she has excellent verbal skills as rote counting is more of a verbal skill than a logical skill…but either way it is very impressive, and I bet she is still good at math! PS I know six year olds who can’t do that!

  3. My favorite line: “I don’t know what trigonometry was”

    I took it junior yr too and can not remember a single thing about it to save my life. That was the one teacher I had who told the whole class that he didn’t get paid enough to answer our questions. But I still don’t think much would have sunk in, regardless of the teacher.

  4. Oh my goodness – I LOVED making those cool folded notes in jr high. I was great at them. I actually had a bag full of them at my parents’ house, and it was only a few years ago that I decided I’ll never really want to go back and read those notes, and I threw the whole bag away.

  5. Thank you, Mr. Embee, for giving us hope!

  6. I didn’t know you were so smooth in high school. I’m impressed.

  7. Aaaaannnndddd I miss-spelled my name. We need more than just good math genes apparently…

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