How an English Major Passed College Algebra

Damien Riley Beer CelebrateI took a couple years off college after high school and lived to regret it. One thing that was really tough was going back to College Algebra and all her pre-requisites. I was 21 and while that sounds young to me now, I felt way too old to be in the same classes as the freshmen I knew in high school. Humble pie set in. I was told in the guidance office I could have taken care of it in high school and boy I wish I had. In my early 20’s as a musician and aspiring songwriter, I was working 2 jobs and didn’t want to be in a classroom learning math, of all things. Nonetheless, that’s where I ended up. I was terrible at it too, nothing came easy. Memorization, neatness, everything required for math was no longer supple in my wild 21 year old mind. That is, until one day when I got some golden advice.

My professor was a hippie “free love and peace” kind of guy. I recall one day he saw me doodling lyrics on my notes. He suggested I make math an art project. See every equation and challenge as a doodle. I started by getting a clipboard and a ton of paper and pencils. I wrapped about 100 sharpened pencils in a rubber band and always came to class ready to make a Picasso. It got me interested in detail and logic. Mr. Sommers also suggested the Theory of Time Spaced Learning to me. This is basically the idea that if you take more breaks, your mind will retain more. I loved that. I’m living proof it works too. Cramming for hours on end really does little. A little bite of work at a time will allow your brain to digest more over the whole session. My grades became A’s and I passed College Algebra in Summer of 1993. I was 23 years old. After that I would become passionate about English, language, writing, and rhetoric and eventually teach. I never had to do algebra like that again but I could never have enjoyed my English life without that one class. Try to transform your talents into the subjects you have difficulty with.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Land of Confusion.”

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