I’ve never been good at math. Like ever. Even in the first grade, I loved learning the letters and putting words together, but I didn’t quite understand what all of the numbers meant. I remember one time I got a problem accidentally correct, and I was so unbelievably happy… until I realized that I had three more to do. My smile immediately fell. Math and I have not been friends since.
Throughout elementary and middle school, I managed to get by. I payed attention in class, did my homework, and if I did fail a test, the teacher would usually let us retake it. It worked. When I moved to Russia in the ninth grade, the way the lessons were taught was dramatically different to what I was used to in Charlotte, NC. When before I had a fancy graphing calculator, and my teacher worked out problems in different colors on her Smart Board, I now had a thin notebook, a small textbook, and a chalkboard to focus on. I was, to say the least, lost. I was fortunate to have a very kind math teacher, who would stay after class to work out the problems with me. Although I still was incompetent when it came to Algebra and Geometry, I could at least do my homework and take the tests.
My struggles have returned. It seems that the math programs in Russia and in the US are quite different. I am currently in College Algebra, and I believe that if it wasn’t for that class, my stress level would decrease by about 80%. When the course started, I knew that I struggled in math. However I believed that what worked for me in the past would work for me again. So I took my clean, new notebook and pencil, and sat in the very front row, right across from the professor. I continue sitting in that same seat, concentrating on every word the professor is saying and vehemently write it all down. I act like I am so focused on what is going on, when really I’m as lost as a reindeer in June.
I do not understand a single thing.
I try to ask questions, but it seems like they confuse me even more. And then I get embarrassed, and feel dumb, and stay quiet for the rest of the class.
Today, after an especially harsh math class, I decided to drive down to the library. You know, surround myself with what I understand. I picked up two new novels, and as I was heading towards the exit, the Children’s section caught my eye.
I’ll just take a look, I thought.
For the next hour, I read my favorite picture books all over again. I forgot how much I missed the colors! As I was looking over each book, I would remember which school library I had first read it at. Was it Lansdowne Elementary? Or Elizabeth Lane? Oh, no, I think it was Sharon Elementary!
Then I stumbled upon Patricia Polacco. I LOVED Patricia Polacco. I used to imagine becoming an author, and drawing my own pictures just like she had. There was on particular story that I had actually not read as a kid, “The Art of Miss Chew.” In it Trisha, the main character, has a hard time reading and taking her tests, but is a great artist. It’s hard for her in school, because no one understands her problem with reading and test-taking, and she finds comfort in her artwork.
And just like that, I was eight years old again, in Patricia Polacco’s world.
You want to know the strangest thing? It comforted me. It made me feel better. Just like it did when I was in the third grade. Trisha struggled with reading like I struggle with math, but her joy was in drawing like mine is in writing. I left the library feeling a little bit lighter. Sure, I still needed to pass Algebra, but I also understood that my joy was in something else, so it is okay if I’m not excelling in Algebra.
I just need to know I won’t fail.
But I guess if Trishia figured it out, and made it work, so can I.
I hope you find what brings you joy in life.
With all my love,