A Serious Fear of Math

Our Assessment Center handles lots of different tests. One of the things we proctor are tests for students who need ADA accomadations. Most students just need extra time, but some students also need their tests in an audio format.

We have software that lets  us scan the test, and then it reads it. The catch is the software doesn't always read it in the right order, and sometimes it cannot read words or parts of a test correctly. In those cases, we have to tell the software the proper order and how things are actually pronounced. This really  isn't hard. Even on the advanced Chemistry tests, I could hold my own. I didn't remember all I had learned in high school and college. I couldn't answer the questions, but I could make the test read properly.

This semester, the moment I had been dreading finally happened: we had math tests that needed converted to audio.

This was a cruel twist of fate because:
1) I'm dyslexic
2) I hate...no I fear math.

In third grade, I started having trouble reading from the blackboard. The school insisted I needed glasses. They were sort of right. I did need glasses, but I'm far sighted. My vision wasn't the issue. After a few rounds, my mom finally got them to test me. Lo and behold, I'm dyslexic. It was decided that I wouldn't get an IEP, and I spent the rest of my time at Woodmore getting my self esteem and arse handed to me by the math curriculum. The harder the classes became, the more I fell behind. Between me being bored and the fact that even when I *did* get the concept I flipped a number and still got the wrong answer, we were in trouble. Yeah, I understood the how, and I was "close" to getting the right answer, but this wasn't horseshoes or hand grenades. Pretty soon I loathed math to the point that I refused to do my homework. Why do it if I was going to get it wrong? Did I mention this was a decision I made in fourth grade? Oh yeah we had a long road ahead of us.

My disdain for math grew with each year. It didn't help that I didn't particularly care for my math teachers. I am sure they are all nice people, but I just was not learning from them. I watched what they wrote on the board. I took notes. Still, it did me very little good. Soon I was discouraged, and again why try if I am just going to get it wrong?

Finally, my junior year rolled around. I just needed 1 more math class to graduate AND to get into my college of choice. All I had to do was survive Algebra II and we were home free. That is where is gets murky again.

First, I had him first period. I was already a full blown insomniac and Ben Stein has more inflection in his voice than this guy. After trying to get it and even asking for help  outside of class, I was still not getting it. I watched him write on the board in class. When I asked for help, he just wrote it down again. I was lost. That is when my mom made the mistake of telling me I wasn't getting it because I was an auditory learner. Everyone has their own learning archetype. Teachers are supposed to teach to ALL the archetypes, but this  instructor was only teaching to visual learners. To my sixteen year old ears this meant he was an awful teacher. If he was a good teacher, he would know how to teach to me too. This was the point where I stopped listening to him. In my mind he couldn't teach so why should I pay attention. I came to class. I tolerated him. Still I was not going to waste my time listening (not surprisingly I apply this same reasoning to dbags now). I was getting tutored by the Chemistry teacher (because you had to know concepts from Algebra II for Chemistry I) and just barely scraping by.

Then we got a student teacher. She was wonderful. When she taught I actually got it, and managed to pull off some decent grades. When she left, I was devastated. How was I going to survive the rest of the semester?

Things came to a head shortly after that. He made the ill fated choice of calling me out in front of the class asking why was it I got good grades with the student teacher and not with him. I'm not sure exactly what I was thinking, but "um because you can't teach" came out of my face. I'm not the person who just says what is going on in my head. I have a pretty great filter. I'm not sure how this one got by me, but it happened.

This of course led to a parent/teacher/principal conference. His biggest defense item was that I wasn't coming in for help. Luckily, my mother the special needs teacher had her arsenal well stocked. Had I just been a brat, she totally would have thrown me under the bus (and I would have deserved it). However, we had instance after instance on our side. Mom and Dad won that fight (and my siblings now had me to thank for "oh I'm sorry you feel that way (insert instructor name) but I'm *sure* my mom would love to discus it with you" to get out of trouble. You're Welcome). I passed Algebra II (and subsequently promised not to take Chemistry II). Somehow did well enough on my ACT to get into College Algebra at Eastern Michigan University and took my one required math class my first semester. Again by luck it was with a bunch of fifth year seniors and the defensive line for the football team. The instructor knew most of the class was just trying to graduate, so he made it very easy for us. I got my first A in Math in at least a decade that semester.

I took that A, and proceeded to forget all I could about Algebra. I was free. Sure I need some math here and there. I'm actually really good with data and stats (I just have to be *very* careful.) However, Algebra still strikes fear into my heart.

That same fear sends me search of a Algebra for Dummies site to ensure I am getting the test right. I know *why* these students need the audio. They are like me (but have it much worse). I want it to be right for them. That fear pushes me to make sure it is perfect for the student taking the test.


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