So we had our math test today, and I unfortunately did not do as well as I could’ve.

Fighting the urge to either burst out crying or die in a hole (like some Math Honours students would), I instead had an amazing time shopping with my mom at the mall! I know, what a happy ending to a bit of a depressing story.

But when I got home, I kinda realized something. I feel like I “cheated” the cycle of typical Asian Math H student behavior when it comes to less-than-stellar test results. All I did was buy a few things, and I feel so much better now! I know some people who would be down all day because of a test, and honestly, I used to be the same.

I have a lot of friends who were in the Math 10 Honours class last semester, and I’ve heard that the class is very competitive in terms of grades. Now, competition is something I secretly enjoy, but not if I’m dead last. I’ve heard of people sobbing when they get below a 90 percent, people sobbing if they just got one question wrong, and just “crazy” stuff like that. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m really glad that I’m not in a class like that. Honestly, if people are crying about, say, an 87%… What the heck does that make me?

It’s funny because I used to be really uptight about grades too. I remember in grade 7, my teacher showed me my letter grades ahead of time. My eyes glided over the page, and stopped at the lone B right in the middle. “FRENCH?” I yelled in my head. “I GOT A B IN… FRENCH?” I pursed my lips and tears started welling in my eyes. Saying a quick thanks to my teacher and rushing out of the room, I found myself in the girls’ washroom sobbing hysterically. Thinking of it now is such an embarrassment, but at the time I was honestly devastated.

I guess it got better in grade 8, because I once got 59% on a math test that year. *cue Math Honours kid gasp*. I know, I know. It’s not something to be proud of, but it’s a personal record! I kinda just looked at the mark in shock, nervously laughed, and went on with my life. All’s well that ends well, though, because on the next test I got a hundred percent on it… Which boosted me up to an A!

I may or may not have told you guys, but I switched from Pre-Calc Honours to the regular Pre-Calc. Why? Competition. I know for a fact that there are some near-genius level people who are gonna be in that class, and I just can’t do it. I can’t even dream about being on the same level as those people. Okay, you might think I’m being too harsh on myself… but I know my limits! I don’t want to say that I’m taking the easy way out. I just think I’m doing what’s best for me, and my math capabilities.

And the worst thing is that I have the worst self confidence ever. I’ve made my test result expectations so that I’d be happy if I could just get an 86%, ecstatic if I can get a 90%. If I told that to my non-Talons Math Honours friends, they’d probably go into shock (haha First Aid reference there). So if I was in Pre-Calc H, I can just imagine me standing by myself in a dark corner while my classmates are excitedly discussing the math test, like “Oh my god, I got 99%! Really, you suck! I got 100%! No, well I got the bonus question, so I’m the best!” Or something along the lines of that. Okay… I’m exaggerating. But what I’m trying to say is that I’m scared of being… the “worst” in the class. My morale would drop, and would keep dropping with every test that I do bad on. Whereas in the regular math class, I’ve got more of a “fighting chance” – if you wanna put it that way.

I really wish that I wasn’t so influenced by my peers, but I seriously am. I’m jealous of people who are just… so chill about everything. It’s not like I have a stick up my bum but I’m pretty uptight when it comes to grades – I just try not to show it because it’s a really ugly side of me.

With that said, I’m going to use this experience as extreme motivation for the upcoming provincial. Hopefully all’s well that ends well! And I love our math class because we’re so supportive of each other and we totally aren’t over-competitive :’)

By the way, retail therapy is amazing. You should all try it! I’m twice as happier now as I was before the test 😀 So if my happy now was x, and my happy before was y… it would be x = 2y!

Sorry……… I just had to.

5 Comments to


  1. May 6th, 2011 at 12:37 am       Liam St.Louis Says:

    Veeery interesting post, Veronica. It reminded me(unfortunately) of when I failed a math test(maybe even two) in grade 7 or 8. We all do not so well as we would like occasionally. I think the important thing is to just roll with the punches and get back up. Doing whatever you need that you think will make you do better is the best thing to do.

  2. May 6th, 2011 at 10:38 am       Mulder ten Kate Says:

    I concur with Liam. This is a must read post for every math student (minus the mall therapy possibly!). QMtK

  3. May 6th, 2011 at 12:52 pm       Mr. J Says:

    I think this post and the attached “Learning through Failure” (no matter if that failure is indeed below 50%, or merely not the result we sought) thread is one that teachers think about in relation to their approach to projects/tests and the overall purpose of school.

    If it is agreed that we learn the most when we are challenged to accomplish something that may (even if only in our minds) lay beyond “the possible,” why is so much of school set up to instill an omnipresent fear of failure?

    Should we be seeking out learning opportunities where the greatest incentive is attached to anxiety and worry about what will happen if the goal(s) is/are not realized?

    How would we go about building a more ‘safe’ sense of failure as a powerful means of growth in our schooling?

    Though it speaks to a slightly different topic (one that has come up this week as well, though related to our recent Federal Election), Zac Chase (Philadelphia English teacher who is crowd-sourcing his tuition to complete his PhD at Harvard) writes this:

    I wonder how often teachers encourage their students to disagree. For all of the talk of student-centeredness, I think we miss it by miles.

    Disagreement or discourse strikes me as a hallmark of a truly student-centered learning environment.

    As I wrote a couple days ago, I submitted a course reflection Saturday that voiced my dissent from the learning module I just completed.

    In one section, I admitted to doing the opposite of what was asked of me.

    I only wrote the reflection after some calculations revealed I would still earn an A in the course even if I didn’t complete the assignment at all.

    Only when my dissent couldn’t be held against me did I feel comfortable voicing it. This within the bounds of an academic institution.

    In a place of learning, dissent should be welcomed. It should be encouraged. It should be expected.”

    Link to the rest of the post:

    If an adult, at an institution of higher learning, is only willing to step outside the “comfort zone,” as it were, once he was able to calculate that his effort wouldn’t negatively affect his grade, what chance do high schools have of instilling a sense of freedom to fail in the name of learning?

    Great post, and a vital conversation piece in the ongoing evolution of education far beyond mathematics. Thanks for sharing,

    Mr. J

  4. May 7th, 2011 at 1:24 am       angelle torrejas Says:

    A very entertaining post, great!!!!
    Learning is most important when you engage in business, especially when you are a student… we don’t need to discourage the student, in fact lets teach them to lean more..

  5. May 7th, 2011 at 11:22 am       Zac Chase Says:

    Thanks for the honesty and transparency of this post.
    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the idea of grades and assessment and honesty and fear of failure recently.
    Schools don’t do much to help students get excited about those things, do they?
    I am a distance runner who didn’t start running until he was 21. I love it. I love entering races knowing full well I’ll never be the first to cross the finish line. I also love that I’m running against myself in each race. I will likely never be running with the same people I see around me at the starting line, but I know I’ll always be competing against myself.
    Thank you for reminding me of this with your post.
    – Zac

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