This may come as a shock, seeing as I do writing and photography for a magazine, but I absolutely love math. Math is my favorite subject. The way that numbers cancel out and simplify, and how everything tends to click in the end, scratches an itch in my brain. I love math so much that I look forward to it everyday, and I always have. Not once have I been bad at math. In fact, I’d consider myself good at every kind of math: Algebra (one and two), Trigonometry, Pre-Calc, and, so far, Calculus.
Now, notice how Geometry was not included on that list. That is because I suck at Geometry. Like, 53% on the first semester final, making things up on tests, only passing the class because of a global pandemic, bad at Geometry. I am so bad at Geometry that I do not consider Geometry a type of math. It is its own subject. There is zero math involved in Geometry, only bull.
Now, what didn’t help was I took this class at the ripe old age of thirteen (not to flex or anything) and I had no idea how to ask for help because I’d never had to before. I also felt like if I had to ask for help, then I wasn’t as smart or as good at math as people said I was. In my mind, people who asked for help were, to put it bluntly, not as smart as the rest of us (which, I’d like to point out, is not true whatsoever. Thank you very much). It has taken me a long time to unlearn this mindset, and sometimes, I still catch myself thinking things like this.
The moment I knew I was screwed was when I got my first test back— a 73%. Which to me has always been, and probably always will be, a failing grade. I still refused to ask for help.
Over and over again I would get things in the seventies and low eighties, and even sixties. The only thing keeping my grade afloat was my homework, which was a completion grade. Throughout the first quarter I fought to keep my grade at a B, a grade which I considered failing, but was better than a C or D. As the year went on, the concepts started to build on each other. If I didn’t get one, I couldn’t understand any of them. What didn’t help was I got sick and was in and out of school for about a month, missing a lot of the basic information for the more abstract ideas. At that point I was churning out thirties and forties on tests and had already failed my midterm. I would meet with my teacher during all my lunches and he did everything the school would let him do to get my grade up. There was talk of me retaking Geometry the next year (I was not happy about this, as I had busted my butt to get the school to let me skip Pre-Algebra and go straight to Algebra One. So, as you could imagine, I was not pleased with the idea of all my hard work going towards nothing).
Thankfully, whatever higher power there is decided, “Hey! Look! A new disease!” and I automatically passed the class. Unfortunately, this was the only good thing to come of the pandemic. Pretty much everything else sucked. But, recently I have learned to find the silver linings in things, and that is one.
Looking back on my Geometry experience, I’ve been able to pinpoint two reasons that I didn’t do well. One: I didn’t know how to study. Not once (up until that point, at least) had I had to study for any class, ever. I was able to retain the information from class, apply it to the homework, and do great on the test. Because of Geometry, I have learned that this can only get you so far. Two: I gave up. After busting my butt as best I knew how to the first quarter of school, I quit trying. It was clear my trying wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I quit. I was such a major perfectionist at the time that if I was trying and trying and wasn’t getting scores I was happy with, I would stop. To me, I’d rather do nothing and get a forty percent than try really hard and get a seventy percent, because why bother when it wouldn’t be perfect anyway.
My giving up absolutely wrecked my confidence in myself when it came to anything that I found challenging. I’ve opted out of honors sciences for the last three years, even though I love science, because I’m so afraid of not being “amazing”, and now I really regret it. And, while I did get to move onto Algebra 2 and Trigonometry the next year, I didn’t do honors because I was sure that I couldn’t handle it. I did the bare minimum to ensure my A in every class, except for math. I did everything I could to remind myself that I was good at math— no, not good at math, great at math, amazing at math, the best at math.
In math I had to be talked out of taking the optional final because I wanted to boost my grade from a 96 to a 98, which was the max I could’ve raised my grade to had I gotten a 100 on the final (side note— the final was supposed to replace my lowest test grade, but only if I did better on the final, and, therefore, could not have lowered my grade at all). At my school, a 96 and a 98 are both A’s. Because of my experience with geometry, I was convinced that there wasn’t a shred of “good at math” left in me, so I felt like I needed to prove it. My mom spent about a week trying to talk me out of it, and she succeeded by bribing me with a bagel (my weakness).
Just after I turned sixteen, I finally felt confident enough in my academic abilities to take a stab at something hard. In my sophomore year English class, we had read Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, and my teacher had ranked three prompts by difficulty and told us we were free to choose whichever one we wanted to answer. I was one of two kids who picked the hardest one. Ella Minnow Pea is a book comprised of letters between two cousins, and I had to decide which of the cousins was a better writer, and prove it. I didn’t work super hard on that essay, but I put way more effort into that essay than I had any assignment in a long time, and I managed an A.
Slowly I’ve been regaining my confidence. I decided to take AP Calculus instead of regular this year. I decided to take AP Chem next year. I don’t always go the easy route in any class any more. Choosing to put in the effort and knowing I can do good, feel great.
Because of my experience with Geometry, I have (somewhat) learned to ask for help, and I know that asking for help isn’t bad, nor does it mean you’re not smart. I know now that I am great at math and school in general. I’ve learned how to study too. On a more rant-y note though, I also learned that while I might be good at hand-on stuff and formulas, I tend to struggle more with theoretical and abstract ideas (which is what Geometry is). Special shout out to my incredible Geometry teacher, for trying his best with me. No shout out to the guy who invented Geometry, though. You suck. I do not like you very much.