The day I learned math wasn’t alright anymore was the summer after the third grade.
Skipping alongside my sister and my father in the scattered shade and into Haskett Branch,
We were free to explore the labyrinth of all beloved books:
worn-out, gently used, or in excellent conditions.
The library, my sanctuary, was fun - and in my yes no maybe so mind,
math was alright.
I never downright made the declaration, “UGHHH, I HATE MATH!”since
math was alright.
And since I felt good, decent, and alright, I picked up:
three books about a girl with choppy red hair,
two books about a brother and sister who went on adventures,
and a picture book about a little boy who stood alongside huge numbers.
He had the most triumphant smile a cartoon could carry, and I was so eager for that to be me that I decided to borrow it,
And was set on uncovering the mystical forces.
After reaching my limit of five and parading to the self-checkout with a sudden desire,
I scanned my selections with the signature sound:
beeep. KER PLUNK...beeep. KER PLUNK...beeep. KER PLUNK…
I paced the area and went to get my father and sister,
who always ended up near the biographies.
On the car ride home we treated ourselves to red and blue slushies, as we always did,
and once I passed the door I carefully took my books to my room.
Dangling over my bedside, I flew through the books about the girl with the choppy red hair and decided to postpone my adventures until dinner was over.
And so I began reading the book about the little boy and the numbers,
my expression softening in the first half when the child expressed how math was scary-
fractions, inequalities, translations, the whole third-grade pick of topics
I have both attempted and ignored:
Did I pay attention? I thought I tried, but I can’t seem to remember.
Remembering was equivalent to asking me
what pi was: It sounded distantly familiar,
but my internal calculator flashed ERROR.
I flipped the next page, and took in a drawing of the child holding his hands against his delicate ears, and the numbers that seemed insignificant
on the cover were now magnified,
a bright yellow 7 on his left and and an intimidating blue 2 on his right.
He looked hurt, and they looked like the reason why.
Lines slashed between the number 2 and 7, they were running circles around the kid, taunting his inability to find solutions as needed,
all behind a backdrop of desolate shades of black and blue.
The word MATH was made out of stone, and stood strong, uplifted from the ground in an exclamatory red.
I took in the image for about five minutes, and even though it was a brief interval of time,
the picture book that was once inspiring was now left unfinished,
and certainly not forgotten.
From that moment on, Math became the stranger, the taunter, the weakness.
Math was associated with inferiority, simple and complex questions
attempted but unsolved-
Riddles brimmed with probability and integers were not “fun,” and
Challenge problems continued to be a challenge.
Starting from the fourth grade through the middle school days
she was average in arithmetic, B’s were the highest she could ever hope for.
Flash-forward and she’s sitting in the back of an Algebra 2/Trig. class,
dry, shiftless eyes hollowed out with the apathy
she never knew she could wield.
Quizzes and tests alike were stained with scarlet streaks signifying
B’s, C’s, D’s, & F’s alike crept underneath her perfectly painted fingernails,
while her thoughts emptied out silently,
in the loud classroom.
When she switched from HP to P, however,
at least she was welcomed back into the familiar territory of the B’s.
Flash-forward, and she’s sitting in the front of a Pre-Calc. class;
now she asks more questions,
now she understands concepts more,
now she feels more capable.