Article by Heather Roark
I was sitting in math class one day this summer listening to the professor talk about the rules of exponents. Once again I found myself in a foreign place. I found myself sweating with a wrinkled scowl, intently trying to understand the world of algebra. It was as if I were in an ancient Egyptian tomb with my torch in hand illuminating the sacred scripts of hieroglyphics, trying to decipher what each picture meant so that I could understand the bigger picture. There is just one problem though: I was not in Ancient Egypt, I was in Main 329, and hieroglyphics suddenly seemed like a piece of cake in comparison to exponent rules. “ X to the power of A, times X to the power of B equals X to the power of A+B” and X to the power of 0 equals 1,” I heard the professor state in the distance. I scribbled the notes down in my notebook. I scribbled down every last word that I could hang onto in fear that I might miss something. Anxiety radiated through my body, and I could feel the rise of panic bubbling up to my throat. “ I am never going to get this,” I thought to myself. “I am doomed to fail the rest of my life because I cannot pass Math 051.”
I scribbled down more notes, making little arrows here and there and underlining everything that I needed to get help with (which was basically the entire page). My hand raced with the words pouring from the professor’s mouth. I wrote as fast as she talked, when I ran out of room. I quickly turned the page of my notebook and a brightly colored picture drawn on the page startled me. I figured out right away who the culprit was, my 10-year-old son. He had drawn a giant monster and spelled out the words, ETHAN IS AWESOME all over the page. The monster had a huge belly, tentacle-like arms, and a tiny, tiny head. I stopped my hand dead in its tracks as the professor kept talking. I looked back down at Ethan’s monster and spelled out self-appraisal realizing that he must have taken the notebook from my bag at some point, doodled this picture and put it back without my knowing. Staring into the monster’s eyes, I could not help but smile. All of the anxiety of exponent rules went away. It was then that I learned what was most important.
Ethan, in his subtle way, reminded me not to take myself so seriously for I may not get out of this math class alive, or get out of life alive, for that matter. I started thinking about his smiling face and that I am not doomed at all. I connected with that human spirit that is alive in a 10-year-old. The monster Ethan drew in my notebook was exactly what I needed to discover that day. I needed to be snapped back into reality. I needed for the simple things in life to shine through. I needed to know that these math problems were not going to bully me. Ethan’s voice was shouting from the page through his mantra that spelled out ETHAN IS AWESOME. I heard him say, “I am here Mom; can we get some ice cream?” Exponents suddenly were not such a big deal.
When I was 10 years old, the anxiety and frustration of a simple math problem deciding my own future was non-existent. Stress was non-existent. I bet I was doodling monsters somewhere in a notebook as well.