For the summer, once a week I'll be sharing a story from my college days at CSU, 1984-1988. I will leave links at the end of each post for previous episodes.
Since I was a math major, it meant that a lot of my required classes were taken with scientists and engineers. For example, the required physics class was PH141, Physics for Scientists and Engineers. It was held in a theater like setting. Sat about 300. Five grueling credits. Met three days a week, then a 2 hour lab.
It was brutal. I could handle it fine once I got to the equation. The problem was this was for engineers. You know, those guys who build and design and invent things and work in the real world.
I guess you could call me Sheldon in that I'm a theoretical mathematician. I like the big ideas, the structure, the language, the possibilities. I'm not Leonard, who uses all that theory to actually do something. Just let me play with my numbers.
Not so in this class. I knew I was in trouble from the first assignment. Luckily though, the two guys from my tiny high school who were also at CSU were in this class! They were willing to tutor, along with their friend.
They were truly patient with me as I was over invading their space with some regularity. I brought snacks, I attempted to be prepared with what I'd tried, so they'd see I wasn't just free-loading. They literally dragged me through that class.
It wasn't them just handing me their meticulously completed homework. No, they took turns sitting down with me and explaining. There were even moments of joy when THEY were stuck on the equation part and I could help!
There was one more huge obstacle to overcome though. The testing method. Have you ever been subjected to the following atrocity? You start the test with a 0. You get four points for a correct answer. You lose one point for a wrong answer. "No answer" to a question does has no effect on your score. Do you have any idea how agonizing it is to calculate your confidence in an answer using a system like this?
It was a struggle the entire year. Yes, I had to take two semesters. I played with the test formula. I took risks. I got a 56% in the class. It was, however, much to our surprise, graded on a curve. 56% netted me a B. A B!!! Unbelievable. I didn't deserve that, but I took it and ran.
Physics and I are still not friends (except on Big Bang Theory, of course) but I survived. Next time, a little story of another strategy that made it possible.
~Tina, getting by with a little help from my friends
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