this post is brought to you by the letter “C”

I am passing calculus.

This is not a declaration of intent. It is a statement of fact, straight form the world’s foremost authority on my Cal II grade: my instructor.

Last night while manning the college computer lab (where I work some evenings — it’s my “office”) I realized I was basing my assumption that I was failing Cal II on the fact that exam grades are typically of prime importance in a final grade. I also realized that my instructor sure assigned a lot of extra projects, and also took up and graded homework.

My homework/project grade is a B. Good God. I dug up the Cal II syllabus and learned that homework is 35% of the final grade. Could I actually have a passing grade in the class?

Different instructors do things differently. My old Cal I prof at the community college is famous for his satanically difficult labs (worksheets of homework on the week’s material) and surprisingly easy tests. I’ve seen people with advanced degrees in math blanch at this man’s labs, which can take up to six hours to complete. But students usually have a few days or more to work a lab assignment, and though it’s hard, you can hammer out a high grade even on the most difficult lab if you put in the time and effort. Come test time, I hardly needed to study for this instructor’s tests! I had been thoroughly prepared for them by his abominable labs. And perhaps to make up for those evil labs, his tests were pretty breezy. And like most college professors, he didn’t even take up homework, much less grade it.

It was a good system. We students were forced to be ready for tests.

Cal II prof is different. Not worse than Cal I prof (in fact the two of them are the best math teachers I’ve ever had) — just different. He is unapologetically one of the two hardest teachers in the math department. (And I like that about him. I’m actually taking his class on the recommendation of a friend who also struggled in his class, but who liked and respected his teaching style nonetheless.) His tests are very challenging — only one person got full credit on the last problem on the most recent test. Perhaps to balance this, he provides students with plenty of opportunity to do well in other aspects of the class — like homework. He actually takes up homework, grades it, and counts it as about 1/3 of the final grade!

Doing math homework — math with no timer and with a little help — is still doing math. Give me a cup of tea, a view of the quad, and a helpful math tutor and I am no longer the anxious failer of tests and poster of despairing blog entries who is driving her RSS feedcount down to zero with her nonstop math laments. I am someone who is surpisingly good at what she is doing.

So I went to see my instructor today, and we had a pleasant chat about my grade so far. And sure enough, I actually have a C in the class. Bring on the dancing horses! Let us all dance in the disco elevator! Not only is there hope that I will pass calculus, there is very little reason to believe that I will fail. Not only am I learning integral calculus, I am actively succeeding in taking it at the college level. HOORAY! Calculus, you ain’t so bad.

So of course now I am planning when to take Cal III. It’s not in my major (currently, a B.S. or B.A. Chemistry), but I hear that it’s a huge help when it comes time to take Physical Chemistry, the most infamously difficult of all undergraduate chemistry classes. And that one is in my major.

And why else will I take Cal III? Because I am a nerd, and because I like math and I like other people who like math. Because I love the college math lab. Because it feels good to turn my weaknesses not so much into strengths, but into aspects of myself that I can comfortably claim as my own. And because I’m sure I’ll’ need all the help in P-Chem that I can get.

I am PASSING CALCULUS! I am so happy! If I was a teakettle, I’d have whistled all day!

“C” is for calculus. “C” is also for a grade that I can live with and be grateful for.

One response to “this post is brought to you by the letter “C”

  1. Oh dear, I celebrated my C by failing the pop quiz on Friday…

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