I have an internal battle with equations, and that’s okay


My dull, unfinished DeltaMath home page.

The Oxford Dictionary defines mathematics as “the abstract science of numbers, quantity, and space.” My definition, however, is a little different.

I strongly refer to math as a brawl with numbers and variables that tie my brain into unsolvable knots, and I stand by that. 

School has never come easy to me. I’ve never been a straight-A student; I’ve never been used as a “this-is-what-you-should-do” example in class—I’m very much average. 

Ever since junior high, more specifically my eighth-grade year with Mrs. Systema, I’ve painfully struggled with mathematics. Numbers just don’t correlate with my English- and writing-based brain.

Nothing against Mrs. Systema—her teaching practices were top tier—but as the algebra got more complicated and the geometrical shapes weren’t just circles and triangles anymore, I fell behind. 

I’ve never really accepted my poor math skills; I’ve always convinced myself that I can keep up with the smart kids and that I can stay on my feet in math. 

I’ve never really recognized how tough math class has been for me all my life until now. 

Freshman year, I was forced to enroll in Alg/Geo, a slower-paced math credit that was encouraged by my eighth-grade math teacher. I lasted maybe two days in there until I dropped out.

I convinced myself I could do better and that I could stay afloat in the regular ninth-grade Algebra 1 class, but boy, oh boy, was I wrong. 

I trudged through Algebra 1, so much so that I failed the exam.

But still, I’d refuse to accept that I needed that extra math cushion. I wanted to fit in; I wanted to be like the other students who breezed through math—I didn’t want to feel lacking.

Now, as a junior in Concepts of Algebra 2, I’ve gratefully acknowledged that I suck at math. I’ve realized that I’m not alone and that it’s okay to suck. Typing that out sounds quite ignorant, but it’s the truth.

My lack of math skills might be a burden, but they’re my burden. When I successfully complete an equation—which rarely occurs—the satisfaction is overwhelming; the joy it brings me to simply circle my final answer with confidence is unforeseen. 

Although this accomplishment may not occur extremely often, that’s what makes it so very joy-invoking. It clicks, and I feel smart. I feel up to par. I feel polished.

Ironically enough, when I’m understanding a unit in math, I become a mathematician—I feel like I’m on top of the world, capable, and a number-lover. I feel like I could take an AP Calculus exam and get a five. Well, not quite, but it’s the thought that counts—the thought of feeling confident and courageous in the realm of Mrs. Lipke’s classroom.

My struggle in math is what pushes me to not struggle in math. And over time, I’ve finally accepted that I’m bad at math—and that’s a reality I’m okay with.

Knocking out a homework assignment during class time may be the best feeling to ever exist. Truly, I feel as if I’m Isaac Newton or another one of those “famous for being smart” guys when I complete my homework before the dismissal of third hour. 

However, I am humbled when a big, red “X” stares me down through my DeltaMath screen.   

I’m not one to believe in stereotypes, but the one where girls are better at English and boys are better at math definitely applies directly to me.

For instance, my eighth-grade brother—who also happens to have Mrs. Systema—is thriving in math. He’ll come home with a math quiz with a big 100% circled at the top and slap it on the kitchen counter like it’s no big deal. No, of course, I’m not jealous of my thirteen-year-old brother but perhaps just jealous of how easy math comes to him.

Opposingly, when he receives an English assignment, I laugh at his cluelessness. It’s not like I’m a terrible big sister for making fun of him; he does the exact thing to me when I am sitting at my desk on the verge of tears trying to figure out how to analyze sine, cosine, and tangent. 

What I’m trying to say is tht it all balances out. And that’s what I use as motivation. 

I know I’m eternally going to have to work a bit harder in the math area of my education, but at least I know that I’m doing just fine in AP Seminar and Advanced Writing for Publication.

My struggle in math is what pushes me to not struggle in math. And over time, I’ve finally accepted that I’m bad at math—and that’s a reality I’m okay with.

I know for a fact that everything in life isn’t going to be a piece of cake—not for me, not for anyone. But, I’ve come to terms with it. And it is okay. 

So, wish me luck on my trigonometry quiz on Friday. I’m going to need it.