PROMPT: My Favorite Subject in School and Why

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…oh, you know, when I was in junior high school with Ben Franklin…

If you, as an adult, asked me, as a child, what my favorite subject was…I would’ve told you English and Social Studies. I did love both of those subjects, but I was secretly good at math.

I didn’t want to admit it out loud, but I was very good at doing math in my head. However, I lived in the era where girls were not supposed to be smarter than boys. In the Third Grade, there was a grade-wide contest, to compete in a multiplication race against the two classrooms. Then, the ultimate winner would go against the principle to be the “Math Whiz.” I REALLY wanted it, so I practiced and practiced. I roped my best friend at the time, Stacie, to practice with me, even though she really wasn’t interested. When it was all said and done, she ended up winning against the principle and I was runner-up. The picture for the newspaper was a hoot: there was the principle smiling, Stacie wearing her winners crown and smiling, and me with the runner-up sign around my neck — I was scowling. Luckily, I moved on…eventually…

I had to work harder at math, because it was my most difficult subject, AT FIRST. But because I had to put so much time into it, and went through so much tutoring, I became exceptionally good at it. My parents spent A LOT of money on tutors. When I got into Algebra, I received tutoring from the college student of Memphis State University, who were from the Mathematics Department. A lot of knowledge and patience was poured into me!

I was also a perfectionist, as a student, because my Dad was one of three in a three-way tie for Valedictorian at his school…but absolutely NO pressure. My Mom was in her top ten at a Catholic School and she had attended parochial school from Kindergarten to Eighth Grade. To say I have intelligence integrated throughout my genes would be an understatement. I just simply had to have good grades. I dearly loved the honor roll parties and the rewards from my parents, so I made sure I was good at EVERYTHING.

Also, I worked hard at math in order to impress my math teachers. We had to go to the board, when we were going over the previous night’s homework and had to show our work. During pre-Algebra, my Dad showed me a different way of finding percentages, but using what is now known as the “box method” — only because he was an engineer and wanted to show me an easier and faster way of getting the answer. I made the mistake of expressing that I wasn’t grasping what she went over on how to do it in class, despite my careful notes. Once he showed me his method, I easily and quickly finished my homework. I couldn’t wait to show her the following day!

So, the next day…I raised my hand to be the first to go to the board, eager to show of my “mad skills.” Once I wrote out my work and answer, I heard something I hadn’t anticipated:

“Laura, that’s completely wrong.” Um, wait a minute, what???

“Ma’am?” I wasn’t sure if I heard her correctly. I did live in the South, so we showed maximum respect toward our teachers and elders.

“Laura, you didn’t do that problem they way I showed you.” Now I was starting to get mad to the point of crying. I took. a deep breath in order to regain composure.

“So, I got the answer wrong, ma’am?”

My math teacher sighed. “No, the answer is correct, but you probably just got lucky. You did it completely wrong, however.”

That had to be a fluke, so I asked to do another. Permission was granted, and she sighed deeply again when I was done and turned around.

“You got lucky on the answer again, but the method is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Give me your homework sheet, I’ll grade it myself.” I bit my lip as I handed it to her, then sat down quickly, totally humiliated in front of the whole class.

When I got home that evening, I said not one word. At dinner, my Dad asked if I dazzled my math class with my brilliance and I burst into tears. I recounted how the class time went, after I calmed down. My Dad went to have a conference with her the very next day. She never would admit that I was using a different, but just as effective, method. She sort of enraged him with her description of me as “willful” and “insolent.” Of course, this is the teacher that later talked about boys being better at math than girls could every hope to be, but “that’s okay.” She doted on this one boy, especially, in class, but my average was higher than his. I never understood that woman — she was a female mathematics teacher, SMH! Have some pride for Pete’s sake! You never limit a child and tell them what they cannot do!!!

So, when I later became a teacher, I taught computer courses and we learned about binary math. I as also a volunteer math tutor. Girls ARE good at math! I won’t even go into the fact that I had a high IQ and got invited to MENSA…I mean, I was just a “dumb ole girl” and all…