My Love and Hate Relationship with Maths

It is a confirmed fact that Mathematics has come to stay permanently. There is no doubting that anymore. When we were in junior secondary school (middle school for my non-Nigerian audience), it was always "just wait till you get to senior secondary school, if you are not in the sciences, it won't matter as much." Okay. But then we got to senior secondary school (high school) and then, it became, "you won't get into any University if you fail Maths." Okay.  First degree for me meant freedom from maths (Thank God) because I was in the humanities. But then came time for a graduate degree. "Oh look, you gotta ace the quantitative section on GRE. If not kiss that prospect of an acceptance goodbye." Okay. Blood and sweat again. Graduate school came, "Oh Statistics class is compulsory, because the job market is hella crazy right now, and employers are looking for candidates who are quite quantitative focused." So now, I have just given up. Maths is a horrible tragedy that as come to stay.

The truth is I am not terrible at Maths (I never was), I just loathe the subject; I have absolutely no interest in it. Let's analyze issues in plain English or whatever, just get the formulas off my face. Ironically, I am good with numbers. There is no friend or family whose number I don't know off the top of my head. Or what does it mean to be good with numbers?

Anyway, I remembered an incidence tonight and thought to blog about it. See, at the end of every term in secondary school, my Mom and I always did a particular 'dance.' She would look at my report sheet: I would ace my Literature class, ace my Government class, ace my C.R.S class, even ace my Economics class (we all know Economics at that level was child's play), ace my Accounting class, ace my English class (and believe me, this is impressive. Q.C English teachers had NO mercy)... but then we would get to Maths and Biology and it would be terribly mediocre: some terms, I barely passed the passmark. My mother would talk and talk and talk  all through the journey home from boarding school. She would remind me how hopeless a future without Maths and Biology was. She would start to rack her brain to figure out how to get me extra lessons during the holidays, because again, what future did anyone have without Maths and Biology? In those days (unsure about now) a WASSCE result was hopeless without those two subjects. I was never bothered though. I knew it wasn't a case of being smart or not, it was an absolute lack of interest in these classes. My Biology classes were such a drag, and my first Biology teacher did not help matters. (Hello Mr. Ayuba.)

So this dance always happened. Normal stuff. I got used to it. A few days into the holiday, everything would be back to normal. How do parents have so MUCH patience? LOL. There was one term it did not happen though, I remember clearly. It was the third term of S.S.1. I had an 81% in Maths. It was memorable. It was thrilling. It was exciting. What made it even more memorable was how many people had failed Maths woefully that term. It was so bad that the Principal had to call for emergency meeting because considering the reports, about half the students in S.S.1 (we called it Corridor. I miss Q.C!) were going to have to repeat. I heard the news from Abuja, where I was enjoying an excursion with some of my classmates. Oh what a feeling? I remember the exam being unusually easy for me. I went for the exam with little studying (I never bothered wasting my time with Maths) and the exam was really GOOD, I had a 57 out of 70. I had got a 24 on my tests so, 81. See I remember something from almost nine years ago, because it was a gooood feeling. Success is so exhilarating. I remember my Mom being really happy, and beaming with pride.

Imagine my surprise when I scored higher in the quantitative section of GRE  than in the verbal section lol. It then occurred to me that we can't always dismiss our weaknesses. Sometimes, all it takes is to divert a little more interest and take the time to know it. That has worked for me with Maths. Higher level statistics on the other hand, LOL. Seriously though, I believe if we put out minds to something, we can conquer it. However, using our strengths to our advantage does not hurt at all. So what if you are only good at one thing? Use that one thing to shine. Use it so much, it brings you before kings. Besides, there is no one who is born perfect.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle.


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