Monday, January 14, 2008

Fear of Algebra

Yesterday, I started my Chemistry 201 class, the next step in my long journey to eventually get a Pharmacy degree. I'd had to talk to a counselor to get out of the prerequisite-- either Chemistry 121 or a basic math course. I'd had both, nearly 30 years ago. In fact I'd sweated through ten semester hours of Calculus as a freshman at North Central College in 1979 and 1980.

In order to check to see if we were really ready for the class, our teacher put six algebra problems on the board. Suddenly, after a 30 year absence, algebra reappeared in my life.

Surprisingly, it all came back to me. Thankfully, the kid sitting next to me was a math major, and with a few kind reminders from him, I was able to do all six problems.

We took a break and spent the rest of the first day of class choosing a lab station and checking in our drawerful of lab equipment. The professor also checked that we knew how to safely light a bunsen burner.

The class was fascinating. The ages, genders and ethnicities were mixed. I'm pretty sure that at 46 I'm the oldest guy there. But there was an enthusiasm and sense of the future that was fun to be part of. Sunday night, I'd had a lot of anxiety about the class. Yesterday, though, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

10 comments:

vikkitikkitavi said...

Ugh, Chemistry. I just don't get it. After one session of my "Chemistry for Idiots" class at Penn St., I switched from a graded course to pass/fail. No way I was letting that shit bring down my GPA.

Suze said...

Congratulations on going back to school. I can safely scratch that career move off as me and chemistry - well we just don't have any.

CDP said...

And I thought I was the oldest (42) undergraduate in the blogosphere. I'm lucky, I took 2 semesters of calculus when I was first in college 20 years ago, and the credits transferred. Good luck!

Bubs said...

That is so cool. Glad you're enjoying yourself

Mathman6293 said...

Remember the episode of Mash when Radar used the line, "Ah Bach"?

I say, Ah Math....

Good Luck.

SkylersDad said...

So how do you safely light a bunsen burner? I am guessing road flare, am I close?

Johnny Yen said...

Vikki-
Chemistry is 75% math. I struggled with it when I was younger, but over time, I've suddenly gotten math. A lot of it was working as a construction worker around the time I was 30-- I had to do math in my head all day.

Suze-
That may have been the great line of the decade!

For me, it's exciting to be back in school and really being able to enjoy it. I'm way more focused.

CDP-
It's funny- I think that my classmates are amused by me. I've had a ton of life experiences, including a couple of careers, including teaching in places most people wouldn't even drive through. Add being a vet of the old Chicago punk scene and a few other things-- I may be the oldest student there, but I have the best stories.

Bubs-
I am. I hope you eventually go ahead with your plans to return to school.

Mathman-
I do remember that one! He was supposed to say it to impress a woman, right? I'll try "Ahhh Math!"

Skyers Dad-
Almost as bad-- one of those gadgets you light a blowtorch with!

Valerie said...

I married a man whose excellent at math...I'm awful at it and I'm glad that I'll never have to look at an algebra equation again.

Don't have too much fun with that bunsen burner! ;)

Elkorama said...

Me thinks you need a copy of 'The Anarchists Cook Book' for your upcoming Birthday.....

GETkristiLOVE said...

Way to face your fears JYen - algebra and being the oldest guy in the class. That's pretty ballsy.

I had a lab partner in high school that was the epitome of a dumb blonde. She once stuck a glass thermometer in some boiling water on a bunsen burner to see what temperature it was. I looked at her with that "are you really doing that?" shock on my face, but it never clicked for her.

To my satisfaction, we got the rest of the period off when the thermometer exploded, mercury flew everywhere, and it had to be hazmatted away. The teacher looked at me like I should have kept a better eye on her and I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "I wasn't watching."