February 04, 2008

Pinhead Extraordinaire

The kid I’m tutoring in Algebra II made an A last nine weeks. The only A in his class. I think his teacher, if not so full of ego and self importance, would do some self reflection and realize that he… as a teacher… sucks.

My student went from a C-, pushing a D, when he and I got together 6 weeks into the 9 weeks, to a solid C, and than an A the following 9 weeks.

The kid has it going on. He just needed someone to explain it to him.

What I want to know, from a different perspective is WHY, WHY, WHY, do I remember the formula for finding the summation of a polynomial to be n(n+1)(2n+1)/6+(n+1)/2+n BUT I cannot remember my brother in law’s phone number?

Why, WHy, WHY, do I remember the rules of series and sequences, yet for the last 10 years of my life, since they moved, I have consistently had to say to my husband when making a phone call, “Hun, what is your brother’s phone number?”

WHAT is THAT about?

I seriously think I am some sort of Idiot Savant. Call me Pinhead Extraordinaire.

In college, it was a big thing to my small circle of friends that I knew Pi to 26 decimal points. I know it to the standard 2 now. This great number knowledge of mine was not something I considered attractive to the male species. Don’t get me wrong, I ONLY dated guys who were very comfortable with smart women, but I did my best to not act like a geek around them.

It was plain enough I wasn’t all girly girl in the fact I went to bars with my girlfriend in jeans and a sweatshirt, not giving a crap what anyone thought as the other women had the big hair and 3 inch FMPs. I did, however, always wear my lipstick and eyeliner. Lipstick from training from home… eyeliner is MY hang up.

Anyway, one night we were at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola. We were in the midst of finals and my girlfriend and I had been at the books for way way too long. I’m thinking we were deep in Advanced Calculus which was the frickin’ BANE of my existence. It was a heavy load that semester, as I’d started taking graduate classes in Regression Analysis and Analysis of Variance, both of which I LOVED.

Our brains were burnt. We were running on babbling fumes. We both had a beer and McGuires was pretty full. We were just looking for a table to grab some Nachos and listen to the singer, who we enjoyed, when we ended up talking to a very very drunk Navy Chopper pilot. I don’t remember where he was from, but he was just passing through.

My girlfriend thought it would be funny, knowing that this guy surely would not be interested in me (she was engaged) if he knew that I could recite Pi to 26 positions. Great. So she declares this boldly to him, with my giving her the eye that equated to ‘wtf are you doing?’ but instead of his giving me the ‘GEEK!’ look and running away, instead he said, “Really? I want to hear it…” to which like a trained monkey, I closed my eyes and performed.

And if that wasn’t good enough, I used to be very adept at telling how old someone was, give or take 5 years, by the skin on their hands. After I finished I said, “Yeah, that’s not my only talent. I can tell how old you are by looking at your hands.”

Incredulously he said, “Really? Show me” at which point I took his hand, looked at it from both sides, grabbed the skin on the top of his lowest knuckle and pulled to see how much elasticity was left in his hand and said, “30… give or take 2 years.”

I was right. He’d just turned 30. Dumb luck too of course. Who would have thought the stupid game we used to play with TGOO and my grandfather would actually turn into a bar parlor trick?

And this guy was obviously drunk as hell and had some sort of beer goggles on because that didn’t make me geek enough. We finally just left. I wasn’t interested in dating anyone. I just wanted to get away from the Fundamental Theory of Calculus.

And now here I sit… wondering how I ended up not being able to remember phone numbers, where I parked my van, or how to find my tent after going to the restroom.

Oh. Wait. Y’all don’t know that last story do you?

Tomorrow. There are days I’m such a pinhead I truly amaze myself.

Truly. Pinhead Extraordinaire.

In my defense, I do think that one is not able to laugh at themselves unless they are truly comfortable. There is no doubt in my mind where I stand on the intelligence ladder. Confident I am.

However, given that, it makes me laugh all the harder when I do some of the dumbest things. Good grief.

Posted by Boudicca at February 4, 2008 10:33 PM | TrackBack

Sounds perfectly normal to me.

Posted by: Angus of Lochalin at February 4, 2008 11:14 PM

If the day comes and I meet you in person, I will be wearing gloves. Don't even try to guess my weight! And I have got the lines to Star Trek TOS permanently embedded in my subconscious. My boys think this makes me a geek. That and the fact that I DO remember phone numbers. That's probably because I grew up taking a lot of phone messages when I was a kid, since my dad was an old country doctor. At our household, the pen and paper that were supposed to be kept by the phone often went missing, and I got good at memorizing phone numbers and detailed messages. Now it is, as you say, something of a parlor trick.

(I hate to admit it, however, but I have forgotten a helluva lot of math! I haven't had to use anything beyond first year calculus, so have become very rusty. Still can't resist a puzzle, though!)

Posted by: Peggy U at February 4, 2008 11:42 PM

Oh, by the way, I think every domestic geek goddess should have one of these.

In addition, my husband (also a math major) and I were married on Pi day (3/14) - quite unintentionally. What are the odds? (Well, actually 1 in 365, unless you take leap years into consideration, so I guess that was a stupid thing to ask ...)

Posted by: Peggy U at February 4, 2008 11:56 PM

Ha - I used to be able to remember any phone number after having called it. I can also remember all three phone numbers we had when I was growing up - we only moved twice so that's pretty easy.

Of course the formulas for math classes, I remembered long enough to take the tests now they are all gone. *sigh* I know of what you speak, I simply wouldn't remember that stuff off the top of my head. Guess I'm not quite geeky enough. (although I will admit to loving Calc because it all made sense to me - even though I had to study really hard)

Posted by: Teresa at February 5, 2008 12:33 AM

My big problem, I think, is that I didn't memorize a lot of useful formulas. That means I spend time deriving the stuff I've forgotten from what I do remember. And that's a lot slower than having it at hand!

Posted by: Peggy U at February 5, 2008 03:22 AM

I was fine until last week. I helped out in Tater's class. I was able to look at a picture one of the boys drew and tell the boy which lightsaber belonged to which person. The teacher just stared at me in amazement. I am in sooo much trouble.

Posted by: vw bug at February 5, 2008 06:22 AM

Make no mistake, girl...smart is very sexy. I've fallen for it the whole of my adult life.

Posted by: Erica at February 5, 2008 06:32 AM

Heh. Erica's right. Smart is a big draw; couple that with funny and I'm hooked.
I'm not math smart. I failed every math class I ever took. Maybe if I'd had a math tutor like you, who knows?

Teresa sent me to a site a couple of years ago detailing the different ways people learn. Visual spatial and... I can't remember. I'll have to find it again.
Kudos to you and the kid! :)

Posted by: pam at February 5, 2008 07:25 AM

I can still recite the greek alphabet but can remember my DH birthday or our anniversary. Birthday is either the 1st or 2nd and anniversary is the 5th or 6th.

And DH eyes glazed over this weekend as I told him how I lean manufactured our kitchen ( he started it by complaining about lean and where he works, I was just using an example that lean can work anywhere)

Posted by: Quality Weenie at February 5, 2008 08:25 AM

The only good thing about my college Calculus class was meeting my husband. I was a lowly freshman who was forced to take that stupid class - math & I were never friends (we're still barely acquaintances) and to this day I'm not quite sure how I ended up in an advanced class like Calculus. Anyway, The Hubby was a senior taking it as an elective. Um yeah, that's right. Sick. But it's how I met him and I'll be forever grateful to the sick bastard who wouldn't let me drop that stupid class.

Smart is most definitely sexy.

Posted by: Kris, in New England at February 5, 2008 11:01 AM

I never got Algebra. I squeaked by in high school and in college. It never clicked with me. I was always told that once it did, I'd love Algebra. It would become fun! Never happened. I wish I'd had a tutor like you around. My math teacher always did the mental, and sometimes actual physical, eyeroll when I had a question. He acted like it was the easiest thing in the world and why didn't I get it? It had to have been my problem.

I still think someday before I die, I'm going to learn that subject. Is it too late for math fun?

Posted by: Sugar Britches at February 5, 2008 11:09 AM

I was telling someone about that kid just the other day...i totally identify with him. When i took the ACT back in the day...i can't believe i'm telling the world this...i scored in the 97 percentile in Science (yeah, pretty damned good) BUT...i scored in the 12 percentile in Mathematics...(yeah i SUCK at math). Interestingly enough, i actually enjoyed Algebra 1 in HS...i dropped Algebra 2. Slipped by with a D in Geometry and that's where i stopped. My Grandpa was a Physics teacher, where was that gene?

Posted by: Jay- the friendly neighborhood piper at February 5, 2008 12:28 PM


Sorry, something i've been thinking about...since i read the original post months ago about you tutoring that kid, i thought about my experience in my first year of college. I had these aspirations of being a vet, i really wanted that. Then i had this Zoology class...she must've been related to your kid's teacher. She was continually WAAAY over my head...and just so you know...i just came out of a college Biology class where i passed with a 104%...i GET the sciences. Being a freshman, and not really knowing how to use the counselor system, i dropped the course, trashed my aspirations thinking...if i can't pass a basic Zo class...? So with that said...you may be making a greater impact in his life than you know...and THAT is a good,good thing.

Posted by: Jay- the friendly neighborhood piper at February 5, 2008 12:38 PM

Hell, even I didn't like algebra, or the witch that taught, or tried to teach it to me. The ol' coot that taught geometry... Totally clicked in my head.
Drawings, relationships between things... then the nubmers start makin' sense to me. X/y = sumthin' x 1... Hell, it's like readin' to bible to me... this one begot that one, who begot the other one. I start havin' Charlie Brown teacher flashbacks... it ain't cool.

I can't remember the equation for baby formula much less algebra crap. I can recite my credit card numbers... how cool is that? Even the little code on the back of 'em. I'm thinkin' of takin' a class to become proficient in bar code readin'... See, now that sounds interestin' to me. Then I won't need them scanners in the department store to figure out how much a danged fishin' costs, or whether or not it's a good bar before I go in and drop coin. Oh, I'm pretty good a readin' menu's at the steak house too if you ever need help, I'll tutor you on that one. My 9th grad english teacher was a hottie... bleached her mustache, but she was coolio...

Sorry... for the tangent run Bou... my bad.

Posted by: RedNeck at February 5, 2008 07:28 PM

danged fishin' costs
Insert Rod^here

Posted by: RedNeck at February 5, 2008 07:30 PM

for some reason in college, I knew random square roots.

the square root of 6,524,277,529 is 80,773 (which was a friend's license plate number). You can double check me, it's been a while and my memory of the random square root might be wrong.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at February 6, 2008 09:52 AM