We all have memories of our middle school years.
Some are fonder than others.
Some are of budding friendships and some are of awkward dances. Some are of baseball games and some are of extended family vacations.
Others are of notes slipped into lockers (you know, the ones containing checkboxes next to the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’).
I have memories like these, myself.
Strange as it may seem, though, a few of my most vivid recollections from middle-school are of mornings spent in an algebra classroom.
* * *
I wake from yet another daydream, returning again to the present. To the real.
I am not alone.
We’re staring at this bizarre amalgam of numbers, letters, and symbols. The row of them inscribed upon each of our papers, we peer into the voids beneath them. A problem, I vaguely recall someone telling us, which we must now solve.
There are rules to be followed, I also seem to remember. Far too many to count:
1. You must SOLVE for x.
2. You must OBEY the order of operations.
3. You must please EXCUSE your dear aunt Sally for that terrible thing she did to you.
4. You must STOP trying to find out what it was that dear aunt Sally actually did which so wronged you.
5. You must CERTAINLY STOP questioning dear aunt Sally’s character and speculating that she might not be so ‘dear’ after all.
6. And no, you MAY NOT GO TO THE BATHROOM.
“Excuse me,” I ask, my outstretched hand now (finally) acknowledged. “Can you tell me one more time what is it we’re supposed to be doing?”
The death rays descending from her eyeballs are enough to scare Darth Vader. I can only cower, hope, and wait.
She pauses, holding the gaze for effect. Perhaps half an hour later, she answers.
“You just solve the equation.”
(To read part two, click here.)[divider]
*Photo Credit: Spreng Ben (Creative Commons)