I’ve been doing some prep work for these standardized tests that I need to take as part of my grad school stuff -- the Praxis Pre-Professional Skills Tests, which are tests that determine whether or not you are smarter than a 5th grader, basically -- and I have to say that I don’t think there is anybody or anything anywhere in the world that is better at making me feel inadequate than the Educational Testing Service.
(BTW, here is the tl;dr version, if you don’t feel like listening to my first-world, white-girl problems: algebra and geometry give me hives.)
Probably it’s ridiculous, but I worry about standardized tests. I’m not entirely sure why, because I’ve always been a decent test-taker. I remember taking the Iowa Tests back in maybe second or third grade, when I was still in Catholic school, and then something else again in 8th grade, maybe, where a Fairly Big Deal was made out of the fact that I was one of the handful of people in my class who got a perfect score in the math portion, and I ended up getting my whole schedule reconfigured because the school wanted to move me up from the pre-algebra class that I was in at the time into a more advanced math class that some of the gifted kids were in, and basically my life was over at that point because I wasn’t in any classes with The Love Of My Life At The Time any more.
(And people wonder why I grew up to be distrustful of Authority.)
To this day, it bemuses me to no end that I’ve always tested better in math than in verbal. I still don’t know why. I am absolutely terrible at math, or at least I’ve always thought so. I can barely balance a checkbook. The only “F” I ever got in a class in my entire life was during my Freshman year at Syracuse, in Probability and Statistics II, which -- OK, yes, technically I might not have done very well on account of missing more than 50% of the classes, but this was during that one college semester when I had my existential crisis and dated three gay guys in a row and started chain-smoking Camel unfiltereds, and anyway, in my own defense I didn’t start skipping classes until well after I started failing them. (Also, the professor for that class was NINE KINDS OF TERRIBLE, and he wore white polyester leisure suits unbuttoned to the navel ALL THE TIME, I kid you not.)
Although, here is what I believe they call “irony”: I kind of use math all day every day since I have an “accounting-related” function at work, and I'm pretty good at it. But I don’t do much that couldn’t also be done by a potty-trained monkey with a basic understanding of Excel and an adding machine. (And actually, I’m not even entirely sure that the monkey would need to be potty-trained.)
I still have never used anything they attempted to teach me in trigonometry, though.
Anyway, when I took the SAT’s in 11th grade, the last standardized test I had to take -- which, by the way, was MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS AGO, if you are playing the home version of our game -- I did fine. Because my brain remembers bullshit that doesn’t matter like SAT scores, I can still tell you that I scored 1340 on my SAT’s (this was back during the Paleolithic period, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and the SAT only had two sections and no essay and a perfect score was 1600) -- 660 verbal, and 680 math. It took me two tries to get my verbal score that high. Back then, and still now, I look at that score and I think, “Wait, what? WHAT?”
Because I absolutely STINK OUT LOUD at algebra and geometry, which if I recall correctly combined to make up about 148% of the math portion of the SAT’s.
And I was reminded about much I stink out loud at algebra and geometry when I took a practice Praxis test last night, where I was staring at these graphics that showed all these shapes floating in space and rectangles with cutouts in them and hypotenuses of equilateral triangles (which don’t even HAVE hypotenuses, I don’t think) (side note: WTF IS A HYPOTENUSE!?) and equations that involved fractions and variables and orders of operations and sometimes things were capitalized and sometimes they were not and there was a lot of ∑ and √ and πr² and DEAR GOD, ISN’T THERE ANYTHING EASIER THAN THIS I COULD BE DOING RIGHT NOW? Like studying ancient Sanskrit from a Latin translation? Anything?
Plus, when I yelled into the other room for help with something that I thought I actually remembered how to do -- yes, it’s cheating, but I wanted to feel like I was at least somewhere in the same state as the ballpark for a few questions that did not involve calculating a tip or determining the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow -- my husband answered back with this bit about how there is no such thing as cross-multiplication unless you’re an angry mathematician, and then he chuckled to himself for, like, two whole minutes.
ENGINEERS ARE NOT FUNNY, YOU GUYS.
So I know that I need to do a WHOLE LOT of reviewing for the math part of this Praxis exam. I guess this weekend I’ll check around in my parents’ garage and see if I still have any of my old Prob & Stats textbooks lying around, but I’m pretty sure that I sold those sumbitches as soon as I retook the class and finally passed. (A-, FTW!) If G has any old college math books, they’re probably for Calculus or Nuclear Fission or something else that’s above my level. My standard reference book, Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, defines “polynomials” and “quadratic equations” and “cosine,” but it still doesn’t tell me what those words MEAN. I need to go back and re-learn how to solve for x, and try to remember what I know about 3-4-5 right triangles.
They’ll have to hold a gun to my head to get me to care about trigonometry, though.