From Math Failure to Math Success

A few years ago, after nearly twenty years working in the computing field without a college degree I decided to get one. I still enjoyed working with computers so a B.B.A. in computer information systems seemed the way to go. Naturally, I would have to complete the math requirements.

The problem was I failed one high-school algebra class and barely passed the rest. If my memory serves, my final grade was a D- in two of those. My greatest passion in high-school was my hatred of algebra and teachers of the vile subject! But, I wanted the degree so I dedicated myself to becoming great at math.

I looked at the requirements for a CIS degree from Eastern Michigan University. It turned out that I would need several math classes to satisfy the degree requirements. I knew I had missed some key knowledge during my junior high experience and I had been out of high-school for twenty years. I decided I needed some pre-college math courses so I talked with a admissions advisor who suggested Math 097, which I lovingly refer to as remedial math.

Before the class, I contacted the Dean of the department and asked his advice on calculators. He told me that most student use a TI-83, but that he uses a TI-89. I bought a TI-89.

Super geeky calculator in hand, I attended every class and gave the professor my undivided attention. Unlike my approach in high-school, I did all my homework and took the time to learn how to solve every problem with my calculator and how to use its advanced features to check my work. I earned a perfect 4.0 in the class.

I felt ready to proceed and decided to check my assessment by taking the math CLEP test to see where it would place me. I managed to test out of 3 math classes.

I used the same approach: focused attention, completing all homework, and mastering the calculator to the remaining classes. Intermediate Algebra (Math 104), College Algebra (Math 105), and Linear Models and Probability (Math 118) all went the same way as my remedial math class had. I always felt confident that I could solve any problem and check my work and I got perfect scores.

One of my algebra professors even told me after the first couple weeks of classes, that he ordinarily would not allow a student to use the TI-89 calculator because it could solve all the problems presented in the course, but he had been watching how I used it and knew I solved each problem with basic features before checking my work with the advanced ones.

I completed all the math requirements for the CIS degree.

I earned an A+ on every homework assignment and exam except my last exam for which I received an A-. I contend that it was a grading mistake because I had a well established habit of checking all of my work, but having been stressed by maintaing my 4.0 GPA with more than half of my course work completed, I decided to let the 4.0 and the accompanying stress go.