28 thoughts on “Weekend Question Thread

  1. Math absolutely sucked for me in eighth grade, in large part because of the teacher I had who was still learning it herself and was positively useless when it came to word problems in algebra. Even though I squeaked by with a C-minus, my parents made me take it over again in ninth grade, where I had a teacher who was a weird weird guy with a true method to his madness that worked. I never had trouble with math again.
    Science, however…and it figures that, with scientist parents, I’d have appreciation for it but absolutely no real feel for the scientific method or for what I was supposed to be looking for when I conducted some experiment. What was worse was when I’d ask my dad a simple question for help and suddenly I was in one of his lectures he’d give to his pharmacology med students right there at the kitchen table. I’d have to prop myself up to keep from nodding off.
    My final science downfall was chemistry in eleventh grade. I barely squeaked by there with some low B’s and C’s…but I was handed a standardized, multiple-choice chem exam for the final and I ended up with an A on it, which blew my mind. Only explanations I could possibly give for that might be that I am proof that osmosis works or that I am one damn talented guesser.

  2. Math. Hands down. I was always flummoxed that there was only one right answer for every problem with no chance for discussion or debate.
    Like liprap, I loved science but couldn’t do the math, and chemistry (especially those damned gas laws) absolutely killed me. Had to take the course twice to pass, but managed a B in college. Our HS chem teacher basically ran a college-level course, it turned out.
    Years later, when my daughter took chem from the same teacher, he called the roll the first day, and when she gave her name, he peered over his half-glasses at her and asked whether she was my daughter. She was, she said. “Well,” he said in that dry voice of his, “I hope you do better in this class than HE did.” She did; she’s LOTS smarter than I am.

  3. Oh, it had to be home ec. I think Mrs. Valentine (yes, a home ec teacher named Valentine–isn’t it nauseating?) thought I was a completely hopeless case. I also think she’d be stunned that I now do needlepoint for fun, and I actually enjoy cooking when I have the time.
    Underneath it all, I suspect it was some form of passive/aggressive response to the expectation that a girl should be able to do this stuff.

  4. Math is easy, but Spanish was impossible. I had a choice in college of foreign language or literature. I knew a foreign language would be of most use so I selected Spanish. Two weeks later I had yet to understand a single word uttered by the teacher, who seemed to believe that the way to learn Spanish was to hear nothing else from the teacher. So, I switched to literature while I still could.
    Years later, using language tapes I managed to learn a little of both Spanish and French, demonstrating that my language half of my brain was functional. But, I still don’t understand a word spoken to me in anything but English – and only some of those words, unless it is “good” English.

  5. i breezed thru algebra. dyslexia helped i think. but equations? and science was all equations after biology. my history teachers sucked, but i was a PBS child and liked it anyways.
    can i say any equations?

  6. Literature. I’m a pretty literal person, so I miss any allegory or hidden meaning.

  7. I started in the catholic schools in 9th grade… and found I sucked in any subject involving the bible. And there was one of those classes required every year.
    And I was weak in literature also. My grades in English almost always lagged behind math and sciences.

  8. Algebra was a monster because they screwed me up in junior high by advancing me halfway through the 7th grade year from pre-Algebra to Algebra. I had no idea what was going on and cheated my way through just to keep my grades up. I told the counselor I had to take it over again in 8th grade, and the teacher was a total dick–I hated him and learned to hate math because of him. I found geometry, trigonometry and statistics to be quite easy because they are based on formulas that don’t change. I breezed through those. Algebra was always hard, and I never made it to calculus–I dropped that shit right from the beginning. It made algebra look like addition and subtraction.

  9. I always had trouble with math. I lack what people who talk about this kind of thing professionally call a “metacognitive awareness of numbers.” People who are good at math apparently can see patterns in it and use them to predict other stuff. I not only don’t see the patterns, it mostly doesn’t occur to me that there would or should be patterns. (Which is strange, because in most other things, my pattern-recognition skills are above average.) I got accelerated in early elementary school — I did four grades in three years, and, due to the way they scheduled things, I got a double dose of English and social studies and stuff, and missed math completely for about a year, which probably doesn’t help, and I’m dyscalculic, which is to math what dyslexia is to reading. Whee ha.
    My math teachers would no doubt be stunned that I grew up and, while I still can’t handle algebra, I somehow managed to write a peer-reviewed course on inferential statistics…but statistics arewasy, because they’rereal
    I also sucked at geography, but that’s mostly because I can’t draw accurate maps, and I had a hardass teacher.

  10. Have to be P.E. Couldn’t climb the damn ropes, hated running laps, and sucked at basketball. Square dancing I coulddo but somehow I always ended up with a disgusting partner.

  11. Algebra. Definitely. It made me sad, because I really wanted to be an astronomer and without math skills, that career was closed to me.
    I have absolutely no number sense. None.

  12. Only thing I had trouble with in school was balancing chemical equations. Don’t know why, but that always vexed me.

  13. Math became difficult my freshman year, weird my sophomore year and absolutely impossible my junior year of high school. Being a words guy, I finally found a fellow student who was having just as tough a time in English and swapped English tutoring for math tutoring and we both were able to graduate as fast friends in the top ten percent of our class.
    I kept trying to get through basic college algebra and finally snagged a C to get through Wichita State, but always had that nagging doubt that I really hadn’t earned it. Later in my life I found myself designing kitchens and baths in my own business and all those years of frustration melted away as I found a vocational use for those hours of brain-melting exercises in high school. So I went back to WSU for a few evenings and took college algebra again and actually felt like I’d earned the B and enjoyed myself along the way. Of course, it took a couple of Chaucer’s and a Spenser to wash the taste out of my mouth. 😉

  14. Interro, my husband is one of those people who can see patterns everywhere through numbers. It amazes me when he comes up with reasons why one speed limit is better for fuel efficiency in a car than another, among a bunch of other things he comes up with from time to time.
    Thing is, folks who see the world in those terms generally don’t have much time for the subtleties of life. The stories I could tell about some of the math professors my husband encountered when he was taking graduate courses in math before he switched to biostatistics. I’m just glad I married the exception to that weirdness. He’s got a brand of weirdness all his own. 😉

  15. English. English grammar to be specific. (See what I mean? Those previous sentences are probably grammatically incorrect! In school I had to be tutored in English twice. No AP classes for ol’ Spocko, just grammar for boneheads.
    Maybe this is why I respect good writting so much and dread writing that book I’m suppose to write. I’m sure that my grade school teachers and pretty much all of the people I know in real life will say, “Wow is this book embarrasing. He splilts infinatives and doesn’t know how to use the past perfect correctly.”
    Sandman I had almost the same experience with math you did. My mind could process geometry but Algerbra was tough. I breezed through geometry so they put me in advanced algerbra. Big mistake. My reasoning worked for spacial stuff but not for the linear thinking of algerbra. This is another reason I was a bad programmer.

  16. Physics. I walked in and felt lost from the first day on. It was definitely a guy-oriented place, and most of the guys seemed to feel pretty much at home with the equipment. It was very disconcerting, because I was used to acing everything without much effort. Fortunately, I was paired with about the only other girl in the class, and she I think ended up going to MIT, so she pulled me through.

  17. Extracurricular sex. I failed so badly at any sort of relationship in high school that I’m surprised they didn’t revoke my penis privileges until I turned 30. I could think of nothing but girls and girl parts and being with girls and rubbing girl skin and smelling their hair and their necks and hearing them laugh and Jesus, I was a miserable wretch.
    Consequently, I sucked at all of my subjects. I barely graduated and then it was at the bottom of my class.
    Goddamn, I was a mess.

  18. I friggin’ loved math. From simple math in kindergarten to advanced calculus in high school and college, I loved it all.
    I hated, hated, hated english and American lit. Analyzing literature was torture and I couldn’t write anything creative for shit. Luckily I enjoyed writing in the social sciences (math skills came in handy as well), but lit was the bane of my existence until I was a sophomore in college.

  19. Definitely PE. I never understood the allure. I used to walk a lot when I was a kid. I still walk a lot now that I’m supposedly grown up. I use most of the stuff I’ve learned in math, English, Spanish, shop, history and so on, but PE never connected.

  20. The only ones I had trouble with in college were the ones I was too depressed to go to classes (for the first three semesters, that was just about all of them).
    The odd thing was that I never thought I was much good at math. All through high school, I got “A”s and “B”s in math, but, my father never thought I did very well. (When I went back to school, I got an A and a B+ in solid geometry and trig, even though I was an English major, and aced college chem for majors). Iknew how to work a formula. 🙂 )
    It wasn’t until I was working, and my father had a problem with the car that required some emergency cylinder head machining at some odd angles, so I ripped it off and put it on the milling machine, got out the measuring equipment and started doing some trig on the back of an envelope to get the milling machine set up, etc., and to make some of the parts that were required.
    After a half-hour or so of this, my father said, “you were never very good in math when you were in school, but you seem to have picked some up along the way.”
    Sometimes, the perceptions of what’s difficult for us are not our own, but are inherited… 🙂

  21. Music. Can’t sing, can’t hear a tune, no hand/eye/ear coordination. They should have given me a ‘get out of music class free’ card in first grade – but no… mandatory choir through high school.

  22. Physical education. Ye gads, how I hated it, and the feeling was mutual. Entering the gym was like going into a dungeon where the teacher was the head torturer and the other students his willing apprentices. Every new sport was some brand new thing I could suck at. I dropped that class as soon as it was no longer mandatory.
    Funny thing is, my 5th grade phys. ed. teacher told my mother that I’d probably enjoy a sport like rowing, which comment she dutifully passed on to me. I finally did try it out (as a direct result of remembering that comment, I think) and did like it, but that was when I was an adult. Dragon boating, too.
    As for math…well, I didn’t hate it, but that was the one subject that always made me the most nervous when we had tests. Weird thing is, when I went to university, I ended up with a B. Math. But before you all start hating me or thinking that I’m bragging, that was still some pretty hard work for me – I’mnot one of the math genius types like David Krumholtz’s character on “Numb3rs” (you know, the kind of people who look at an advanced quantum physics formula and go: “Oh, sure, that’s obvious.”). I had a lot of classmates whowere like that, though – they were the ones who also took theadvanced classes.

  23. Liprap, one of my best friends has a degree in math from a liberal arts college, so he also has a very well-rounded education. I think that’s kind of the way to go, because it knocks some of the rough edges off. Granted, I did a liberal arts degree at a traditionalist school that required everyone to do a science course or two, so I took Astronomy and wound up with the prof that taught Astrophysics instead.
    I’m not well-rounded, though, really, I am just shaped that way. 🙂

  24. lb0313, I think that’s the one of the saddest things about school. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to who had a miserable experience with music in school (my mother was one of them) that put them off it for a long, long time.
    My mother and I have sung together in the same chorus for 30 years now, and she’s a remarkably talented singer. But the D she got in choir in high school convinced her for a long time that she couldn’t sing. We’re so impressionable when we’re kids, and a bad experience can shape our lives for a long time. I wish more teachers were sensitive to that fact. Don’t get me wrong–a lot are, and I had great experiences with a lot of them, but it’s the ones who aren’t we always hear about.

  25. I didn’t really hit the wall until college, when organic chemistry and biochemistry kicked my ass. This was not a promising start for a biochem major.
    So then I switched to molecular genetics, which is biochem for lazy people. People get intimidated by the word ‘molecular’, but if you can understand a flowchart, you can understand molecular genetics.

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