This past week I started something new. Something that has my whole family scratching their heads in bewilderment. My husband commented, “that is a really weird way to relax.” My kids keep coming up to me and wanting to know, WHY? I will tell you, and probably all my friends that knew me in high school will start laughing. I am taking high school Alegebra 1 via Khan Academy, online.
I zipped through Unit 1, and I am on the last quiz and Unit test for Unit 2. There are 15 units. I have no idea how long this is going to take. I hope that I will stick with it though.
So, a little background. Yes, I have taken high school algebra before. In high school. Actually, freshman year I was doing correspondence high school courses and finished Algebra 1 with an A, and no teachers on hand for daily help. I went to a little mission school and there were 5 highschoolers that year, and each of us worked independently on our own courses. There was a volunteer in the class to kind of keep us on task and answer questions if they were able. I think Aunt Bernice, the principal of the school, might have sat down a couple times with me to get me over a hump, and I think they once tried to get one of the doctors who worked at the mission hospital to give me a tutoring session, but they were unable to explain things on a beginners’ level. But, however I did it, I did pass the class and got an A. But, that was in 1992-93. I really don’t remember a whole lot of what I learned. Especially since, I HAVEN’T USED ALEGEBRA for my ENTIRE GROWN UP LIFE. (Something all my teenagers have constantly pointed out when bemoaning their math classes.)
I later took Geometry and Algebra 2 at Bethel Regional High School, up in Bush Alaska. I had an awesome teacher whose teaching style consisted of showing us how to do something at the beginning of class, giving us an assignment with lots of practice problems, then sitting down at his desk and allowing us to all work in groups and do all the problems. If our group couldn’t figure out how to do a problem, we would go ask another group. If none of the groups could figure out how to do the problem, an emissary would be sent back to the teacher’s desk. The teacher would explain how to do the problem to that One student, then that one student would come back and start showing all the other groups how to do it. It really taught us how to figure things out on our own, brainstorm, and work together. I grumbled a lot about those classes, but I think I secretly really enjoyed them. But again, I can’t remember a thing that I learned.
Anyway, back to why I am taking Algebra 1, again. I enjoy math puzzles. I love sudoku, even though I’m not a genius at it. (My mother-in-law is genius level.) But, I was starting to get bored with sudoku and I really wanted something numberish to do. When I do math puzzles the worrying, fretting, stressed part of my brain turns off for a while. The problem solving part of my brain gets turned on, and it actually becomes quite relaxing.
My kids have used khan academy some over the years and it occurred to me that this would be something free and interesting to do. I would not recommend the algebra course as a stand-alone course for someone who has never taken Algebra before. Mostly because they don’t give a lot of practice exercises. But, for someone who needs extra review, or who, like me, just needs a refresher, it’s a great format.
My long time, high school math partner, Sara, will be amused to learn that I am still making stupid mistakes, like forgetting the negative signs, or copying the problem down wrong. I am also struggling with writing the letters down neatly enough that I don’t mistake them for numbers. And I am currently stuck on the last quiz in Unit 2 because the silly thing only has 5 problems, but you have to get ALL 5 correct to move on with high marks (and I’m being a stickler, not letting myself get anything but 100%). And I keep missing ONE problem because of some silly mistake, then I have to start all over again. My kids think this is pretty funny.
I think what probably really got this whole ball rolling, was my mom making a comment a while back that she was trying new things that were challenging in order to keep her brain stimulated. And I liked that image of keeping my brain stimulated, not letting it get stagnant. And since I am such a book and history and writing kind of person, math is actually really challenging. And it feels good to challenge myself. Wish me luck on my quiz!