By Shamus Posted Friday May 26, 2006

Another stupid internet test…

 You Passed 8th Grade Math Congratulations, you got 8/10 correct!

An 80% is humiliating and shameful, particularly since I’m a programmer who focuses on 3d. The questions I missed were related to statistics, which I’ve never taken. I couldn’t tell you how “median” differs from “average”. (More to the point, I know how to obtain an average, but not how to obtain the median. Now that I’ve taken the test, I think I’m going to google around and spackle over these gaps in my learning.) I knew that info was just a hop away with Google when I took the “test”, but I wanted to see how I could do using what’s in my head. How did I end up 34 years old and ignorant of some low-level areas of mathematics?

It’s a bit strange, really. In high school I hated, hated the numbing repetition of math. I was of the opinion that any teacher who would assign 60 nearly identical problems as homework was a demented sadist, and any student who would sit down and do all 60 was a fool.

But this was the way of things. Learning long division? Monday you’ll do a few dozen single-digit problems. Tuesday you’ll do a few dozen more, but they add a digit of complexity. Wednesday will be more of the same, with a few three-digit problems to “challenge” you. Thursday you get another batch of problems that mix them all together. Friday is the test. Rinse. Repeat.

By the end of class on Monday you had all the tools you needed for dealing with Friday’s test, but you were doomed to waste the next three days doing the same problems over and over again. The homework was extreme overkill. If I can do seven of them, then surely I can do the next fifty-three with no difficulty.

So I never did homework. Never. I would score an A or B on the test (I was sloppy, and didn’t like to show all my work) but since homework was part of the grade, I usually pulled a C or D in math. I dreaded hearing the words, “Just do the homework and I promise you will pass this class.” I took this to mean, Just make sure you do the busywork and I’ll pass you even if you don’t really learn anything. The fact that lots of people got better final grades than me when their understanding of math was not as strong only confirmed in my mind that the whole thing was a joke.

This sounds like I’m warming up for a screed against the American education system, but really the fault was my own. The fact that know-nothings can pass with decent grades is regrettable, but more important is the fact that there was still a decent education available for those who were willing to work for it. I got out of high school exactly what I put into it. Sadly, I didn’t put much into it.

I made a point of taking the easiest classes available – particularly in math. Not content with taking the regular algebra, I took the courses that watered it down and presented it in two seperate classes: Elementary Algebra 1 and Elementary Algebra 2. With all the various offerings of algebra at varying speeds, I was able to “learn” algebra three times during high school, while getting credit for doing so each time. In the end I expended a lot of effort avoiding work.

A few times people suggested that I would do well to shoot for the harder courses. This sounded insane. To me the hardest part of the course was the overload of mind-numbing work. I expected harder courses to simply be more of the same, but with more digits and larger problem counts. I found out later that the “harder” courses would have been far more interesting, and they often assigned just a small handful of (large, challenging) problems a night.

It wasn’t until a few years after graduation that I really began to see what I’d missed. I got into 3d programming, and found I needed triginomitry. More to the point, I found I liked trig. I’d never set foot in a trig course. I’d never done any calculus. I’d never taken geometry. I’d wasted all that time on re-learning stuff I already knew because I was afraid of work. Now I needed it and had to learn it on my own.

I’ve done fairly well at grasping the concepts, although since I’m self-taught a lot of the language of mathematics eludes me. I don’t know how to properly use the greek symbols, even though I’m sure I’m writing computer code for formulas that would require greek to express properly on paper.

Let’s try this again…

 You Passed 8th Grade Math Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Sadly, no questions on how to normalize a vector or build an orthographic projection matrix.

## 23 thoughts on “8th Grade Math”

1. Evil Otto says:

9/10. I missed the same statistics question you did, and I’m shocked I remembered even that much.

I was the same way in school. Math bored the snot out of me, so I didn’t do the homework and just did well on the tests. (In fact, that was pretty much my reaction towards every boring class.) Except I never developed an interest in it later. I can *do* it, but there’s no love of it there.

2. Pixy Misa says:

10/10. First time I mis-clicked one of the answers, though, so I got 9/10 and went “Huh?”.

Trigonometry, algebra, statistics and finite maths are cool.

Multivariable calculus, however, sucks.

3. Cineris says:

Agreed on the excessive work. I enjoy math in the sense of having those “Aha!” moments where you understand something, but doing (in grade school) 50 or so problems a night, or (in college) 10-25 or so much more complex problems can definitely turn you off to it.

Unfortunately I tend to be sloppy and forget steps all the time, so in a sense I likely need that kind of drill practice, but am unwilling to commit myself to the drudgery of it.

4. Dan says:

8/10. Thats funny that you tried to stay in the easy classes. You know how much I hated school.
When I went back to school in 11th grade after a year in PAR ( that’s an after school program for “bad” kids who get kicked out)
they tried to put me in pre-algebra which i’m sure is the same thing as your elementary algebra
and I insisted that they move me to a harder math class. For me I was trying to change my image as the stupid bad kid and thought it embarassing to be in a class that was learning number places, before AND after the decimal. sigh

5. Dan says:

the only thing that sucked was when i changed classes I had to change teachers and my easy math teacher was drop dead, balls to the walls, smokin hot. Ironically I ended up with the same math teacher I had in PAR. She was nice, but had a really nasal voice and she didn’t give me a boner.
sigh

6. Shamus says:

they tried to put me in pre-algebra which i'm sure is the same thing as your elementary

That was the other class. So in my four years of high school I took:

Freshman: Basic math
Sophomore: Pre-Algebra
Junior: Elem Algebra 1 & 2
Senior: Algebra

I can’t believe I got away with it. I can’t believe I wanted to.

7. Malkara says:

Meh. I’m in High School right now, wonderfully. And it’s still the same, of course. Algebra 2 right now, which they split into two semester-long classes (My school goes on 4 hour and a half classes per semester). In my freshman year I had Algebra 1 split the same way, Sophomore I had Geometry, and next year I’ll probably end up with Pre-Calc and Calculus, and hopefully I can get into the AP Computer Science class they just added.

8. spidey-widey says:

10/10.

I’m in 8th grade, in algebra. However, I find it painfully easy, and it bores me. So I’ve been teaching myself math at home. Currently I’m teaching myself calculus. I’m not sure what I’ll do in high school.

Cool. 10/10. I’m uber…whatever. That particular question turned out to be about “mode”, as you figured out later. But I guessed, so it may not count.

While the setup of the school system in Canada is slightly different to yours in the states, the content is much the same. I took the “middle-of-the-road” maths classes through high school as I had a good grasp of the basics. Unfortunately, this meant no calculus or linear algebra until university. At that time, beer became more important. So, other than knowing Newton invented it, I still don’t know sweet tweet about calculus.

10. Lilian says:

9/10 here. Funny thing is I’m not a native english speaker, and “math talk” is definitively not part of my vocabulary, so some questions were quite foggy, but still, 9/10…

Mathematics sure are an international language.

(Well, those same question using Roman numerals would have been… a challenge. Oh yeah)(also, it’s quite possible those same questions would have been foggy in my native language. I’m fluent in english, but not so much in “mathematish”)

Annoyingly, the thingamajig didn’t tell me where I was wrong. Not that I care so much about getting better at maths, after all I am not a 3D programmer ;^)

Still, annonying.

Lilian
(dunno if it matters : I came here from your “DM of the Rings” webcomic, linked on RPG.net. Nice thing you have there, I’m hooked ;^)

11. Lilian says:

“annonying”, urgh. I really shouldn’t write anything past midnight.

And the stuff in brackets needs rewriting, “those same questions” twice is bad form and unclear. Too bad there’s no “edit” button.

That’s what I get for daring to write I’m fluent in English, I guess ;^)

Lilian

12. Brickman says:

You definitely should have taken the honors courses. I took the straight honors track in math all the way through AP Calculus, and aside from the proofs in Geometry (with which a three question assignment would STILL be greivous busywork), homework was reasonable and didn’t repeat the same thing all week.

13. Dwaggi says:

9th grade, 10/10 right. Whoopdeedoo. I don’t particularly like math, it’s boring. Useful, but boring. Maybe geometry will be better than algebra was. *snort*

14. Neri says:

Sadly, all of the math teachers at the high school I went to (even the ones for such classes as Calculus) were sadists. Every last single one of them.

Which sort of cemented my desire to stay the hell away from Calculus in my senior year.

15. Rob says:

Wow… that is _exactly_ how high school went for me. I got 100% on virtually every test, but just ignored the homework portion of the classes as repetitive and not a true test of my knowledge. I ended up being ranked in the bottom twenty of my graduating class (out of 500+ seniors). The funny thing is, the counselors made me take an intelligence test, and I scored in the top 3 percentile (IQ of 147, but I guess you could argue my WIS score is abysmal ;)). On another note, I also almost failed at the last minute because I hadn’t met the _gym_ requirements, having had a severe spine condition operated on early in my high school career (whee, I now have a spine of surgical steel!) To this day I laugh at the irony of having 3 torturous gym sessions in a row each day in one of our gymnasiums about 40 feet from a ministore with virtually every sweet Little Debbie, Hostess, or the chocolate companies make. Yes, I’m a very, very bitter and cynical man. I blame the Twinkies.

16. Chris says:

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Could You Pass 8th Grade Math?

I go to an early college program, and they make the stuff much more engaging and interesting. They have a very nice system. Sorry to hear you didn’t find your love for math until programming.

18. EMK555 says:

yay! I passed(8/10), altough im in 7th grade!

19. bob says:

I’m in AP Calculus and I’m in the 8th grade

20. Taneer says:

I got 9/10, but only because I got distracted by shiny objects and skipped one question by accident. I then went back and did it for OCD purposes, and got 10/10. Almost satisfying.

21. xavier says:

yay, 10/10. im in eigth right now, taking geometry. last year i took algebra 1, and next year i’ll take algebra 2. math has always been easy, but this year its reallllllly boring >.< so ive been teaching my self algebra 2, and just to have something to look forward to im planning on teaching myself that, precalc, and calc before the year is over… im not sure which classes to take in highschool, as i dont want the social situation to be weird. (i was placed in higher grade classes in elementary and it was uncomfortable)idk what to do

22. Kyle says:

I got 9/10 Im trying to teach myself calculus. The only subject I’m really good at is math.

23. Anonymous says:

Wow. IF you know a lot about a subject, and it got ingrained in your brain so nicely, why would you NEED to do the homework? Having homework be a part of your grade is foolishness!

Thankfully, where I live things are kind of different. Teachers don’t expect you to do the homework, but they do challenge you in the tests. Well, some of them.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so: