FROM that moment on, I came to love Math and everything about it seemed easy. I wondered why I was having such a hard time before when it all seemed so simple now.
Then came Junior year and Geometry which was a whole different animal. We had a teacher who wasn’t connecting with a lot of us. Fortunately, one of my best friends from my elementary years, Anthony, came back from a high school in Manila, and had already taken Geometry in his sophomore year.
So after he had explained the basic concepts of proving to me (which at first I found as puzzling as problem-solving), everything became easy. We would solve problems at the end of the chapter and compare notes with each other, while the teacher was still explaining the lesson. If both of us got it right, we could relax and do some other stuff like read a pocketbook or doodle. If one of us was wrong, we would exchange solutions and each would try to see who was wrong.
This tag team with Anthony would later be joined by Eric, my other best friend from elementary, and the trio was complete once more. We would go on to our senior year doing this with physics and trigonometry, and it didn’t really matter who our teacher was though some of my classmates found it difficult to connect with them, but our informal peer tutoring and competition made us zoom ahead of the lesson by leaps and bounds.
In fact, we weren’t paying attention one time and chatting with each other a little too loudly so our math teacher got really mad at us, called us a bunch of “smart alecks” and walked out of the class. We were silent for a few a seconds as he stormed out of the room. Someone at the back who probably also wasn’t paying too much attention asked in a bewildered voice, “Who’s Alex?” and the class erupted in laughter.
I spent most of my high school in sheer enjoyment of math, but college was another matter. I walked into my freshman pre-calculus class oozing with confidence. I listened to the first lecture and found out that pre-calculus was just a review of algebra so I relaxed and sat back and didn’t take any notes. I could follow the lectures and examples in my mind.
Then came our first exam and I stared at the paper and wondered where the problems came from because they looked alien. I struggled to solve them but they seemed ten times as difficult as the lectures and examples. I barely passed that exam with a grade of D which in my mind stood for “deflated” as in it deflated my ego and I went back to diligently taking notes every class.
I guess it’s different when you have Ph.D. level professors. I went through calculus, linear algebra, graph theory and so on. But I couldn’t find my old groove. I didn’t have classmates or peers that I could have that sort of friendly competition and camaraderie I had with Anthony and Eric in high school.
So I went back to being an average math student.
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