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NOT FOR NUTHIN’ - Pie charts and supply & demand

While driving into work and listening to a talk radio station, I discovered, much to my surprise, that it has been 35 years since I’ve had to take a midterm exam. How did I know this? Well it was in 1973 that the courts made their landmark decision of Roe vs. Wade and that was the last year that I was in high school, so 35 years. Tempus fugit – Anyway, this week is also the first time that my daughter, a freshman in high school, is experiencing the nightmare of midterms firsthand. Planner that she is, she has set herself a timetable of what to do for the week -- how long she will study and on which days she will study which subject. My daughter, through hard work and diligence, has hopefully mastered the math. After studying hours on end the math worksheet that the teacher gave all the students, as a help aid for the test, she called me at work and excitedly said, “Mommy, I have had a mathematical breakthrough.” The light shone, the angels sang, and for the first time in her school life, she understood the math. No, not only understood it but could ably apply it too. It’s funny how just one mention of that landmark decision and the year 1973 could evoke the crystal-clear memories of that January morning. Even though a significant amount of time has passed, the thought of that day still haunts me. The day of the economics mid-term. My daughter studies, I cram. My opinion has always been if you don’t know it by the time of the test, all the cramming in the world is not going to help, so why bother. Take a look at the book and let luck be your guide. It’s also why at this stage in life I can’t figure out the basics of supply and demand and why I have an abundance of hand soaps and never enough toilet paper. But enough of that. The day dawned bright and cold, much like the weather this week, I went into school and sat down at the desk, anxiously awaiting the proctor to supply me with the midterm packet. The bell rang, we were each handed a packet and then instructed to open it and begin the test. I wrote my name and information at the top and then began to scan the questions. That’s when it hit me. I realized that not only was a short cursory look at the book not enough study time but, that I was hopelessly lost and woefully unprepared to take the exam that lay before me. Trying to decipher the myriad pie, flow and graph charts set on the table was as confusing to me then as trying to set the clock on my VCR today. Sure, I was able to ace the questions that asked what year this happened, and how long that occurred, but stock markets and mapping money trends was way, way beyond my ability. The test was done, my pencils were worn down to the nub, and I, along with the rest of the class, waited interminably for our grades. The professor took pity on us all. Apparently, the class as a whole didn’t do very well and the test was marked on a bell curve. Don’t ask me – if you think pie charts are hard, bell curves are no walk in the park either. I still don’t understand them. But it was enough for me to pass the test and of course pass the class. So I tell my daughter –your way is much better than mine. Study hard – it’s better to be prepared than surprised. Not for nuthin, but do you really want to end up with black electric tape over the flashing numbers on your VCR? E-mail “Not for Nuthin’” at JoannaD@courierlife.net. All letters become the property of Courier-Life Publications and are subject to publication unless otherwise specified; please include your name, address and daytime telephone number for verification.

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