one divided by zero is undefined.


my earliest memory of math is second grade. we had these timed quizzes. see how many addition and subtraction problems you could do in x number of minutes. our heavy-set teacher, ms. peters, wound up a clock, say, maybe twenty minutes, and then we'd turn over our worksheets and have at it. i liked it, i don't know why. i was good at it. sometimes i'd come in first place. maybe i liked it because it made me feel like a robot. i wasn't a lonely kid, just a calculator.

with each new year, the math got harder, but still manageable. there were more worksheets, more quizzes, textbooks and sharpened number two pencils. i'd get so into the zone that when i erased, i'd take half a page with me. i'd cringe whenever the eraser got too far down to the metal rim. the sound, the sensation of a metal rim going up against paper - well, you might as well have split my head open with a samurai sword. there was something beautiful about it, though, this pointless task we kept doing that involved money, percentages, fractions, the whole world.

i didn't know what the point was, and i was too stupid to ask such questions. not until junior high did someone actually ask, "are we ever gonna use this in the real world?" our teacher probably mentioned something about balancing your checkbook, or figuring out how much money you can make in a high-interest savings account. money, always the incentive. oh, but don't forget about jesus. the tests continued, and no one questioned it anymore. everyone just wanted a 100%, or at least, to do better than the idiot sitting next to him.

math was just something you did in life. you would take a shit, go to recess, put numbers together, get picked up by your dad, kiss your mom, and go to bed. i didn't question anything, and as an adult, i regret this. i'd probably be better off if someone had just told me, at age 8, that hey, one day you're gonna turn 27 and you might decide the path you've chosen in life is the wrong one, or else just too boring, so you'd better learn some other things.

by eighth grade i was sick of it. there was a handful of us that were sick of it, too. mrs. clark said, you guys are too advanced for the math i'm going to be teaching this year (great school, huh?), so i'm gonna give you the option to start algebra on your own. of course i said yes. i wanted to feel superior to the rest of the class. i wanted to feel like i was special, like i was smart and deserved more than what everyone else got. i did an independent algebra course when i was in eighth grade (great school, huh?), and i failed. i remember getting partnered up with joseph, and together, we scored the lowest on the final exam. 67%. i was mortified. my perfect report card would be ruined, and for the first time ever, i'd see a big fat "d" staring back at me.

but that didn't happen. mrs. clark must've realized, oops, i didn't teach them any algebra! i just gave them a book! and poof, see how fast that "d" became an "a." some fucking school, huh? the following year, i went off to jesuit high school, and of course, they saw my shining "a" in algebra, and they said, well, you're obviously too smart to take algebra again, and then they plopped me in accelerated geometry. on one of the first days of class, i forgot my homework in my locker, but my teacher said i couldn't get it. i'd just have to take the zero. because that's how college professors rolled. having been to college, i can now say that mr. moulton is a fucking idiot.

i got my first c in geometry xl that year. worse yet, they passed me onto the next course, algebra 2. i still hadn't received a full course of algebra, you know, the foundation of all higher math courses. not that it's that important or anything. needless to say, i sucked at math. by the time i reached pre-calculus, it might as well have been a foreign language. the week's homework wasn't due until friday, so every friday before the deadline, i copied someone else's homework. i dug myself a hole deeper and deeper by the week. he must've known i was cheating. after all, how'd i do so well on the homework, but fail every quiz, every test? he was a smart guy, so why didn't the assface say anything? why'd he pass me with a c rather than fail me, the way i deserved to fail?

that's the problem, i think, with schooling. not that so many kids are failing, but that they keep getting passed along. when an employee shows up late, steals money from the register, sexually harasses other coworkers, the employer fires him. the employee fails. the employer doesn't write a glowing recommendation for this idiot. so, why do teachers keep doing it? who knows? maybe they have to. i'm sure mrs. clark, mr. moulton, and mr. zielke didn't want to have to deal with my ass for another year. my failure reflected their own.

i wasn't a calculator anymore. just a lonely fucking kid.

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