The Magical Math Elves

Last year, I missed six months of school (fun times) due to mental illness. While I was able to keep with English HH, AP US History, and Government Studies all on my lonesome, AP Biology, Trig/Calc HH and AP French went into the garbage pail. Teaching yourself those subjects is incredibly difficult. I managed to learn enough biology to do well on the SAT II, but I can’t exactly look at the plant cells required for AP labs when I’m in an outpatient facility all day. And me successfully figuring out derivations on my own is a joke. A really hilarious makes-your-sides-hurt joke.

Despite all that, I like math, I really do. I love figuring out angles, percentages, and prices, playing with triangles, circles, and squares, and figuring out the heights and areas of things. I did incredibly well in Geometry and Algebra One, but I just managed to squeak by in Algebra II.

This year, I’m stuck in Pre-Calculus Honors because Trig/Calc HH wouldn’t fit in my schedule, and man, do I feel like an idiot. I managed to miss almost every class in January and February, so I not only have no idea what’s going on right now, but I also have no idea what led up to it. Apparently, knowing that cos^2 α + sin^2 α = 1 is essential to figuring out equations that use cos 2α = cos2 α − sin2 α, and wouldn’t it be great if I knew what the heck cos^2 α + sin^2 α = 1 meant so that I could just attempt cos 2α = cos^2 α − sin^2 α?

Everyday last week I sat in class willing the numbers and letters to somehow make sense. I was just dying for that Eureka! moment to happen so that I could leap out of the bathtub and run through the streets naked, just like Archimedes did when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose. Only, I wasn’t on planning on discovering that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of object submerged, I just want an A on Wednesday’s quiz, preferably a high one.

But I’m just completely mystified. I’ve spent several hours in the library with my math textbook, trying all the verifications on my own before looking them up in the back. So far, I haven’t been able to complete a single one. When I’m in class, staring at the board and furiously scribbling notes, I sit there wondering how on earth the teacher knew to input that formula or knew to flip those numbers. It all just seems to happen arbitrarily.

This has led me to the conclusion that I am not the stupid one here. Instead, there are these magical math elves that are creating these crazy answers just to mess with me. But let me warn you, elves, I’m on to you and ready to take you down.