By Husseina Ojochenemi Abubakar
“Collect the like terms”
“Divide both sides by 2”
Mathematics was my worst nightmare during my primary education and my early years in secondary school. The pronunciation of the word “M.A.T.H.E.M.A.T.I.C.S” always got me some butterflies jollying in my stomach, if you know what that means. But, on the contrary, other subjects were just easy as beans.
My twin sister Hassana helped me solve particular arithmetic involving a word problem more than a dozen times in my junior year in secondary school, all to get the hack to solve similar problems. Especially since I was the class captain, you are often the focal point of most teachers.
But once the question is a bit twisted from her examples, I would start developing migraine, which often marked the end of that practice. Nevertheless, I kept wondering about these two mathematical terms.
“collect the like terms”
“divide both sides by so and so.”
As I type this now, I can’t stop laughing at myself how something so simple could cause me sleepless nights. In short, it was a miracle that I fairly scaled through during my Junior School Certificate Examination.
This miracle became more apparent in my first year at Senior Secondary School. Then, I was made the female class captain.
Our charismatic, vibrant maths teacher walked majestically into our class one fateful morning with his head up high. We immediately stood up to welcome him, which was the usual class tradition whenever a teacher walked into the class. He gestured to us to sit down and, without introduction, went straight to the chalkboard and wrote Mathematics followed by an equation. He demanded that the class representatives stand, which was my assistant and me.
Upon hearing this, I lost my composure, my palms and feet began sweating profusely, and I started running high temperature all at once. It was one of those moments you would wish you had a magic wand that could be used to tear the earth widely open to swallow you.
He turned to the other lady and asked her the first step to solving the equation. “No idea,” my then assistant answered sheepishly.
Mr maths teacher then gestured in my direction. Without knowing where the energy suddenly came from, I quickly answered, “collect the like terms.”
He was so impressed that his applause echoed through the four walls of the classroom and beyond. Then, he went to the board and carried out the command.
From no angle of elevation or depression, this exercise stirs a cognitive essence in my brain. I had treated this topic in my extra moral class, and I think I got a zero in the mini-test given at the end of that day. Now, it became crystal clear to me what the term stood for in Mr maths teacher’s class.
Again, he turned in my assistant captain’s direction asking for the next step, and she couldn’t come up with the answer. As he turned in my direction, I quickly answered, “Divide both sides by 2.”
He was impressed once again. He went back to the board and executed the command. That was how we arrived at the answer that marked the beginning of my journey to stardom as one of the best mathematics students.
After that incident, a mathematics Milo competition was organised amongst all the SSI students of the secondary schools within my local government (i.e. Idah).
I was approached to represent my class and join two others for the whole arm of SSI at that time. However, I was still unsure of my mathematics potential, so I declined because I’m not good at maths. But the senior prefect convinced me that my other colleagues would assist as it was a collective effort. So, I agreed to participate.
Lo and behold, the day came, and I, who was supposed to be the backbencher during the mathematics, ended up receiving a standing ovation and monetary prizes because even the questions that were meant for the other school students, which they could not answer was answered majorly by me effortlessly.
One thing became clear to me—the power of grit (passion and perseverance when you face obstacles). I was not good at mathematics, but I never stopped trying to improve. I didn’t give up. I kept struggling. As you can deduce from the story, my effort eventually paid off when I least expected it.
This is my true life story. Even the mathematics was not in my hand; it was in my heart and subconsciousness.
You may be having some migraines over some challenges now. So, taking a break is allowed but don’t completely give up because not one of your efforts goes unregistered in your subconscious mind.
These are my words, my dear readers. Believe in the process, and you will arrive at your destination in sha Allah.
Husseina Ojochenemi Abubakar sent this article via firstname.lastname@example.org.