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Advice From A Math-Challenged Kid
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Story Notes:

Written for my sophomore algebra class (c. 1999). We had to do a presentation of our class projects (anything creative having to do with math), and I decided to write a poem. Here it is, as I presented it:

Here I am, spaced out again,
the miles of numbers not making sense.
My mind is a blank and my eyes have gone crossed
and now I find out that I’m hopelessly lost.

I don’t have the power, I don’t have the will
to sit here and learn mathematical skill.
Crunching and cracking the numbers with ease;
such admirable talent was not given to me.

Somehow I find that I lack basic knowledge;
despite all I do, my math scores keep falling.
So please do forgive if I’ve started to preach,
but I have here today a lesson to teach:

I cannot do fractions, I cannot divide.
I cannot do tangents to keep me alive.
I cannot find squares, I can’t calculate.
I haven’t learned math past the fifth grade.

My I.Q. is high but my math scores are low.
Trapped here in math I have no place to go,
no place to run and no place to hide,
no place for the kid who can’t long-divide.

Thrice I’ve failed algebra, it’s sad but it’s true.
I spend most of my summers here at the school,
trying to learn and trying to find
some physical way to pound it into my mind.

The lessons are long and the numbers are dull.
For some quirky reason they bounce off my skull.
A little sinks in every now and then;
I’m just a slow learner so repeat it again.

Now I may appear stupid
But I can’t seem to see
How a thing such as Y equals
MX + B.

My half-wit conjectures
Are all full of flaws:
I’ve even forgotten
arithmetical laws.

But I know you all know
What a square root can be.
Cos I thought that it
Was a part of a tree.

You’ll all be laughing when
This one is told;
I thought “hyperbola”
meant dying from cold.

I thought a half plane
Meant a jet cut in half,
And I’m not saying that
Just for a laugh.

But there is one small thing
I remember is true:
when you add one and one,
you always get two!

(And here I beamed. Then my face fell and I said, “Hang on a sec,” and I pulled out my calculator. The class was roaring with laughter as I punched in the numbers. Then I looked up with a triumphant grin and said, “Yeah, it’s two.”)

So take it from me, an old hand at the trade;
don’t play cat and mouse with your GPA.
Just do the work and you’ll thank me you did.
This is the advice from a math-challenged kid.



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