I never get tired of watching the broadcast from the 1980 Winter Olympics in which the United States of America beat the (then) Soviet Union in the medal round. The USA players were amateurs and collegiate players on the world stage and they did something that still resonates today. They beat the unbeatable. The team went on to win the gold against Finland. You see, I recently had a ‘Miracle on Ice’ moment. In fact, it happened at 10:15am this morning in room 347 of the Tivoli Union Building at Metropolitan State University of Denver. There was no crowd teetering on the edge of their seats in the arena or millions of eyes glued to television across the country and beyond. There was just me and the two math tests designed to see if I had what it takes.
I’ve spoken about my terrible relationship with math in the past. It was just about a year ago this week that I ran full force into a wall of bureaucracy that reminded me that I could not escape death by numbers. I spent four or so hours this week preparing for the Elementary Algebra Accuplacer test and walked in today tentatively hopeful I could at least get a score that would allow me to take the only math class I needed. If I swung and missed, I’d be laboring through remedial classes. I don’t know if you’re like me but I do not enjoy remedial classes, especially in math.
Well, I swung and hit a ground ball down the third base line and it went through the outfielders legs. I managed to slide into second base with a score of 65 on the Accuplacer. I needed a 72 to get into the integrated class. I cursed my brain, kicked the dust at second. The next step after nearly making it on the first test is to take the Math General Placement Test or Math GPT. This then scolds, I mean tells you into what remedial math class you’ll be shoved. I may be paraphrasing the exact wording on the documents, but you get the idea. I also wasn’t happy to be taking the Math GPT. I wanted to hit a home run. Instead, I’m stuck on base waiting for someone to bring me home.
The Math GPT is timed at 38 minutes. You think that’s enough time to take such a test? We’re not friends anymore. I came in at 37:59 in a rush of sweat and near tears. I figured I had bombed the test, shot its horse and buried the horse in a shallow grave. I sighed and walked sullenly out to find out just how badly I had done. I had scored a 74. I knew I was doomed for remedial. I couldn’t escape it. I was doomed.
I looked at the document and read that I would have to take a class titled, “Mathematical Modes of Thought”, which just made me realize how low my math-fu was because I was going to have to take a class where we didn’t do operations, we did thoughts. This is that moment when I pull a Charlie Brown and mutter a “Good grief!”, and walk out with my head in my chest. That moment was nearly upon me.
Then it happened. The woman at the desk frowned and said, “Oh, wait. You got a 65 on the Accuplacer and a 72 on the Math GPT?” I nodded, wondering if she was going to laugh at me, douse me in gasoline and light me on fire while she cackled with darkly foreboding glee. Looking back on that moment, it’s an odd reaction to have but that’s where I was, feeling like I was about to lit on fire. She looked again at the sheet and gave me a smile, “With your two scores, you can actually take the Integrated Mathematics class!”
I could have hugged her. I looked again at the details.
61-71 (EA) AND 72-100 (MATH GPT) – Integrated Mathematics I
Do you believe in miracles?