I am pretty average. Throughout my life I have managed to find myself in the very fortunate position of being able to grasp most of what I have tried with some degree of competency. I am “good at stuff” – not exceptionally brilliant or terrible at any one particular thing.
Except for maths. I’m really, really bad at maths.
It wasn’t always this way
Up until the age of 15, I was somewhat of a maths genius (not to toot my own horn or anything, but I was really, really good). My year-end averages were in the A+ category which made dad – our family’s resident boffin – very, very happy. I was bound to follow in his footsteps – A Beautiful Mind without the paranoid schizophrenia. Unfortunately, something happened between Grades 9 and 11 and I found myself floundering.
Now, as you probably all experienced yourselves, every teacher has their own unique quirks. I had an Afrikaans teacher who would randomly shout “I am the captain of this ship” in the middle of a lesson. Anyone who went to my high-school would be hard-pressed to forget the English teacher who sent you to “Siberia” (a desk out of reach of all the others) should she catch you talking in her class.
Coming from a long line of teachers, in most cases these quirks can help them from ending up in the nuthouse (do you know what teachers have to put up with these days?). However, in some rare instances they can make it difficult to actually learn anything. In my case it was one particular habit of my 10th Grade maths teacher which seemed to affect my marks. If you didn’t “get it” the first time it was explained, you were left behind.
By the middle of the year, not even my after-dinner-dad-run-extra-lessons could save me from my sudden and dramatic slide to the bottom half of the class.
Luckily for me, failure in one department is an opportunity to shine in another, so I switched my attention to English poetry. That same year, we had started studying Shakespeare and I had developed a rather Macbeth-level flair for the dramatic.
Maths became my poetry muse
It was nearing the end of the academic year when the news spread like wildfire – Mr Menthol Cigarette was leaving the school. It was too late for me, but at least those who came after me would be spared. I used this announcement to rhyme out my feelings about both him and the subject he taught.
And so I present for your reading pleasure my Shakespearean maths-inspired poem – “O Death Come Swiftly”.