Up until sixth grade, I loved math. I’ve since figured out that the reason is that math until then was actually basic arithmetic, with numbers which made sense to me and functions which were fairly consistent, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I actually remember a time when I thought that math was my favorite subject. That all changed as we moved into the more theoretical fields and I rapidly lost interest. Algebra was just okay and Geometry was one step beyond okay. I basically blew off Geometry class due to a complete lack of interest in the subject. It no longer was black and white, right and wrong. We didn’t speak of adding and subtracting, but now had theorems and postulates, and questions such as: “State the theorem or postulate you would use to prove the following statement.” I wanted to find the correct answer, not discuss why it was correct.
I should tell you from the start, that I’ll not be exploring any of the intricacies of the foreign language which is mathematics here. I merely wish to set the stage for my little tale, to be assured of your understanding of my position, when I say that I had no interest in the subject. You mathematicians (the Lovely Lady included) will gasp in horror, and the intellectuals among you will be convinced that your original impression of my lack of cerebral ability was correct. You won’t change my stance. I have no intention of becoming a “nuculer scientist”, and therefore will not be resuming my education in mathematics ever again.
For the college prep level of classes I chose to complete in High School, Geometry was a minimum requirement, so it had to be passed. We had a two semester, four quarter system, with nine weeks in each quarter. As I sat through my first nine-weeks of classes, my eyes rapidly glazed over as Mrs. Klinck discussed the basics of the class and my mind went into neutral for the duration of the first quarter, giving me a final grade for the nine-weeks of 68. In those days, 70 was considered passing for the class, but you only had to pass the semester to move ahead, so the two nine-weeks grades were averaged together. Mrs. Klinck was a good teacher, with a desire to see her students do well, so she arranged for me to come in for extra help before school. I wasn’t alone in those early morning sessions, since there were other students who were of a kindred spirit with me. At the end of the semester, with a little effort on my part, I achieved exactly the necessary minimum passing grade of 72. My mind, which does simple division quite well, told me that the resulting averaged semester grade of 70 was completely acceptable.
For the third quarter, the eyes glazed over again, resulting in an abysmal grade of 62, the worst I ever had on a report card. Mrs. Klinck was not amused at all. “If you think I’m going to pass you with a 78 for the final nine-weeks, you’re sadly mistaken!”, were her exact words. “If I don’t think you tried to do any more than just get by, I will make you take this entire class again next year!” Now, Mrs. Klinck was one of the best looking teachers in high school and I think most of the boys in her classes had a crush on her, but another whole year of her Geometry class? No, thank you! I came in for the early tutoring sessions, applied myself to the hated postulates and theorems and finished the final quarter with a respectable 89 in the class. I even came within a hair’s breadth of acing the final exam, missing only one question to achieve a very impressive 96.
I’d like to be able to tell you that this was a turning point, that I never again did the minimum necessary to fulfill a goal. I’d even love to tell you that I always give one-hundred percent in everything I do. I can’t tell you either of those. Many times since that day I have waited for the last minute to finish a project, “phoning it in”, as the saying goes. I have failed to remember the lesson of that hard year in Geometry on any number of occasions. But, I can also say that over and over, I’ve thought of that year when faced with a task which I detest. On almost a daily basis, I see duties and responsibilities on which I would like to get a pass. I have come to understand (even if not actually mastered) the need to achieve excellence all along the way. I’m going to keep trying to make that one-hundred percent. Mrs. Klinck couldn’t make me love Geometry, but she helped me to learn a valuable lesson which has stuck in my mind and heart for many years.
Always do your best, even when it’s more than is required. Whatever you do, do it with zeal. We don’t work for ourselves, or even our favorite math teacher. If we are followers of God, we owe Him our best efforts, even in the most menial of tasks.
“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”