There’s something extremely weird about Add. Maths.
If you elongate it, i.e. write ‘Additional’ Mathematics – the subject makes absolutely no sense at all.
None. Nil. Zilch. I mean, who the hell would opt for additional math, right?
The answer is – Everyone.
If you don’t elongate, it is like you’re somehow avoiding the elephant in the room. But if you manage to conveniently ignore the first word… the question of whether to opt for it or not gets a chance to bubble up.
It isn’t usually that something stumps me significantly badly. Everything is more or less planned out, everything is more or less solved, everything is more or less understood. But at the end of my last academic year, I was faced with a question that I spent all summer over, and every waking minute of August over. No exaggerations.
And that – was the question of choosing an optional subject for my GCSE’s.
The question was not IF I choose … the question was WHAT to choose. Three options; Art, Sociology or Additional Mathematics.
Art was/is out of the question. The first time I did decent art, with proper paper and expensive water colors and a grade at stake was last year. That says a lot. If a person is just starting serious art at such a late stage, one cannot be expected to be amazing at it. Theoretically speaking, the average person will suffer and struggle. Especially if the teacher is such a bee-eye-tee-cee-aych. *coughs* Unless of course, the person is gifted. That is a pleasant state, I believe. Not that I would know.
Anyway, as I was saying, Art was a very new thing for me. They didn’t take Art so seriously at my old school and over here, Art was a subject – compulsory until now. Now I get to choose. And I choose to steer clear of Art. I have grown to love painting, to seeing the colors flow on a slightly wet patch of paper. BUT – and yes, unfortunately, there is a ‘but’ – I do not like the teacher factor. I don’t like the fact that my art work is going to be constantly monitored, judged and criticised. Art is not my passion, it is just a new found hobby and I am not yet ready to have my work criticised. Also, I cannot guarantee masterpieces whenever I get down to it. Some of my friends, are born artists. One of them can make anything and everything look stunning, beautiful, majestic, mysterious, creepy, eerie – you name it! One day, if she lets me, I will post some of her art work here.
So, Art [x]
Next up – Sociology. And here’s where the problem started. I have been so, so, hopelessly confused between Add. Maths and Sociology. I felt that Sociology would be a subject I would be interested in, since I am always looking at my school/class fellows and trying to analyze their personalities and actions and moods; trying to figure them out.
I like doing that sort of thing. Especially since a lot of my assumptions about people turn out correct. But I did not want to opt for a subject that is classified as ‘the easy way out’. I wanted a productive subject, one that I would actually learn something from. Something invaluable. In Sociology, if all the teacher was going to do was lecture and read from the book – I don’t want it.
But then the only other option is Add. Maths. The subject of the smart, the doctors, the engineers, the math geniuses. The subject that will guarantee you a spot in a good college, provided you get a good grade in it. The subject that is super credited. The subject that will help you in Physics, Chemistry, Math, A Level Math.
The subject that will be your death sentence.
It is not an uncommon fact that Additional Mathematics is one of the hardest subjects you can take on. And I had five ‘additional’ problems.
a) I live on the other end of the city to where the usual tutors are. So tuitions after school – which are a ritual one simply CANNOT fathom taking on Add. Maths without – are a bit of an impossibility for me.
b) The Add. Maths sir in school – not so good. Or at least the previous three batches thought so.
c) Math is not my my strongest subject. I can work super hard at it, and get a really good grade. But if it’s ‘super hard’ for Math, what could it be for Add. Maths?
d) I have a nerves problem. I may know all the formulae, my concepts could be as clear as distilled water in a nice lab container – but if I freak out during the exam – I’m doomed.
e) I want to try Add. Maths despite a), b), c), d).
What do I do?
I talked to all my old(er) and oh-so-smart cousins and they all told me to check the subject out and see if I liked it or not. One of my cousins is super successful and she didn’t opt for Add. Math in her O Levels nor Math in her A Levels. The other opted for both and is now majoring in Physics at a well-known and reputable university.
I talked to my Dad too – he was all for choosing what I liked, what I could cope with and what I wanted to do.
The problem was that by that time, my thoughts were so muddled that I no longer knew what I liked. And I had never really had a clear idea of what I wanted to be (I’ve always wanted to be an author. Always. But slowly the list has grown and become complicated. Singer, Journalist, Musician, owner of a successful magazine/newspaper)
But I knew that coping with Add. Maths was going to be a big challenge. Especially since I have GCSE’s for 3 subjects this year!
And so I pondered, and pondered, and questioned myself at every corner. Summer ended, school started, suffered from a mini heart attack when we had an Add. Maths class on the first day back. I sat in Add. Maths classes, a couple of Sociology classes, giggled a bit at the completely non nonchalant way the Sociology book had phrased sensitive matters and basically drove my friends crazy by asking their opinions on my dilemma. I talked to so many people. My mother said to go for Sociology since Maths had always been a pain for me. My Dad thought I was confused about choosing Add. Maths, because of peer pressure, because all my friends were choosing it, because I was scared that if I didn’t choose it I’d be thought of as being ‘dumb’. Sometimes, I want to pull my hair out in frustration and tell my parents to stop believing in stereotypes. The only reason I was confused was because I was haunted my the fear of getting stuck on some extremely difficult chapter/concept and not having anyone around to explain it to me, and not being able to understand it myself. And so I lost sleep and thought until my brain (literally) hurt.
I even talked to my little brother.
One night I just broke down and starting ranting to him, about how I wish somebody would just force me to study a subject. Just push me into a classroom and tell me this was my only option. It was the only option THEY thought was OK for me. But my brother said something that really made me stop and think, and that doesn’t usually happen, especially when your brother is at the age he is.
He said, “No. You know that can’t happen. Because if it does, and then later on something goes wrong, you’ll blame that person for your troubles. This is no one’s choice but yours. And it has to be.”
Smart, huh? Very deep. I loved the sound of it. But it didn’t solve my problem. And I cracked.
I decided to go to the last person I would ever have thought of.
My school Headmistress.
I go to a missionary school and our headmistress is a nun. We all address her as ‘Sister’.
I talked to her and told her of how I had shuffled between the classes, of how I was understanding everything up till that point in Add. Maths, how I had taken a few Sociology classes too. I told her that I was confused and worried because I lived at a bit of a distance and tuitions were going to be hard for me and I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to cope with Add. Maths. I told her of how Math wasn’t my strongest subject, but I could do well if I worked hard. I also told her of my nerves problem.
“Sister… it’s not always that I don’t understand a certain concept. It’s just that I have a nerves problem, and whenever I see the exam paper – I freak out.”
She had smiled at that; seemed quite amused with my rambling. That is very unusual behavior for Sister. She asked if I was coping alright with ordinary Maths, and whether I preferred Add. Maths or Sociology. I said Add. Maths, IF I can cope with it. She replied saying she thought I would be able to cope just fine and that she would give me leverage. I could try Add. Maths till December and then let her know.
I was stunned. December? And she thought me capable of ‘coping’?! Let me tell you – if Sister thinks something of you, it is a very big thing.
And so I made a small tick in the form she handed me, next to my name, in the column for Add. Maths.
That was that. I guess what she really did for me… was give me confidence.
And that counts for a lot.
Today, she stopped me on my way to class after morning assembly and told me that if I ever had any issues with the subject, she would talk to the teacher to give me extra coaching.
I don’t think I have ever been so grateful to somebody.