En route to work this morning, Judd and I discussed various subjects revolving around college classes. It all started when I asked if the textbooks that accountants keep from their college days are ever used again. Somehow, though, we worked our way to the subject of collegiate math classes and my mind wandered again to the embarassment of Math 222.
For those unaware, in my first semester of college I took the five credit Math 222 course. I had taken AP Calculus in high school and saw Second Year calculus as the next logical step. What I didn’t know, however, was that the entire year of content in AP Calculus was only the first 7 or so weeks of Math 221 (i.e., First Year Calculus). The end result of the class was a five credit F that I spent the rest of my college career attempting to recover from.
Looking back, there were more than a handful of reasons that I received that F in Math 222, and I will attempt to explore them in this post. So consider this post-mortem for my benefit mainly, though take what you will from it.
Summary of The Reasons
- Math 222 not a continuation of AP Calculus
- Math 222 third power lecture of the day
- Never studied before, never needed to do homework before
- Unfriendly, unhelpful teacher
- Addicted to Quake/Quake II
- Unable to admit defeat at hands of subject matter
Now let’s discuss them in detail. Note that the reasons are not in order of importance. Some did affect me more than others, but it is probably subjective as to the precise impact.
- Math 222 not a continuation of AP Calculus: As mentioned above, the AP Calculus that I toko in high school did not logically lead to Math 222. Instead, it taught principles that would allow a high school student to more readily take to the material in Math 221. I know this because after failing 222, I went back and took the 221 course before attempting 222 a second time. What I found was that 221 was NOT entirely a retread of the AP Calc material, and that upon completion of the course I was MUCH better prepared to take the 222 class.
- Math 222 third power lecture of the day: As was the case with most freshman students, I didn’t know how to create a good class schedule. My first semester of school I attempted to maximize my free time by scheduling as many course credits on Tuesdays and thursday as I could so that I would have Fridays off. The result was that on Tuesday and Thursday I had 3 power lectures (classes that last more than an hour) in a row. It just so happened that the most difficult subject I had that semester (Math 222) was the final lecture of the day. I was mentally exhausted after so much time spent taking notes and listening, and therefore I was not in the best state to absorb the most difficult material presented to me. Hence, I did not learn what I needed to in order to prepare me for homework and tests.
- Never studied before, never needed to do homework before: In high school all my work was very easy. I never developed any study skills because once I was shown the way I remembered it. studying for any test in high school was essentially just randomly flipping pages until I got bored. The AP Physics Test was the only thing I ever REALLY attempted to study for. The problem was that once I got to college things weren’t so easy anymore. But since I was supremely confident in my vast intelligence (!) I decided that I had no need to study lowly quizzes. If I had a midterm or a final I’d give the textbook a cursory glance. Once I got an F on my first Math 222 midterm, however, I started to realize something. I needed to study, but I had no idea how to do it successfully. And since I was stupidly confident in my own ability to work through my problems, I never attended TA or professor office hours because that was for the “dumb kids.” Holy shit was I stupid. Just imagine trying to pass a difficult class without ever reading the book or asking for help.
- Unfriendly, unhelpful teacher: All through high school I had very helpful teachers. They explained things well and helped you if you need help. They just came off as caring educators. When I got to college and (unluckily) got stuck in a class with a professor who didn’t necessarily CARE who passed and who failed, I flailed spastically (if indeed one’s Education can flail in a spastic manner.) Professors at the college level don’t ASK you twelve times whether you understand. They teach concepts once (or never if you were supposed to have come across it in your assigned reading) and then move on to the next. There is not much time and many concepts to be taught in one semester. Happily, upon retaking Math 222 I was in a class with a fantastic professor who simply presented the material Better.
- Addicted to Quake/Quake II: I stayed up until 3am most nights playing Quake online. Though I would have dismissed it at the time, I know now that I had an unhealthy obsession with the game. Often I started playing at 10pm and just go straight on through til morning. This is the time that I should have been studying. Period. It was my fault, and I take full responsibility. In an interesting side note, I haven’t played an online game in some time (perhaps since Quake III in senior year of college, but even then it was not often.) My own theory is that I had few friends and no social life outside of my dorm room freshman year. Therefore I kept myself amused through computer games only, and that turned sour after a while.
- Unable to admit defeat at hands of subject matter: Related to Reason 3. In my time in pre-collegiate schooling, I never came across a subject I did not easily master. Math, science, reading, writing, etc. I picked things up very easily, though I especially prided myself in my math and science (physics) capabilities. So to walk into college and immediately fail at one of things I’d long prided myself on was particularly scary for me. I was unable to come to grips with the fact that I needed help in that subject, during that semester. I had never, in all my schooling, dropped out of a class because it was “too hard” or worse, that I was going to fail it. My refusal to recognize my impending academic failure resulted in a more real failure (the F) than if I had admitted it to myself and dropped the class when I still had a chance.
Some of these reasons seem minor, and I’m sure they were at the time. There also may be more subtle reasons that I have not included but did affect the grade in a very real way. But I think the major reasons have been accurately represented, and I hope that in the future I’ll recognize my shortcomings prior to personal failures they herald.