Friday, January 29, 2010

So I've just taken my first Norwegian high school math test.  Trippy.

I was so over prepared for this test, it's a little absurd. 

I'm not the type to freak out about tests or finals.  I don't panic about time or blanking out. 

I do the class work, I read the material, I figure out what the teacher wants to hear parroted back to him or her; if I know it I know it, if I don't I don't.  Having said that, I do tend to work my ass off to make sure I know 'it'...whatever 'it' may turn out to be. 

I think I've said here before, I'm a good little student.

So yeah, I feel a fair amount of pressure leading up to an exam, because I want to do well.  Truth be told, I want to ace the damn thing.  This is always what I'm aiming for.  But it's largely internalized pressure, there are never any visible signs of wigging out.  At least, there never were before.....

Blame it on my distracting children, blame it on my age, blame it on the funky foreign language, or maybe just the funky foreignness of the school system in which I find myself.  But whatever the reason, the prospect of this math test has been causing me to go ever so slighty batshit this past week.

I've solved, resolved, and unsolved every single problem in both the text- and workbooks.  Nothing is assigned, per se.  There is no homework that is due, or required to be handed in ever.  You're expected to be responsible for keeping up with the pace of the class at your own discretion.  I'm finding I quite enjoy doing the math, so like I said--solved, resolved, and unsolved three times over.  I made Mister help me with the impossibly hard story problems (finding annual interest rates, calculating the growth of a bacteria population, oh, and my favorite, determining the rate at which human teeth are shrinking per every 1,000 years....riveting, vital information!) 

You could easily say I've been a little obsessed with these story problems.  I find them incredibly difficult.  I always have.  Factoring, reducing, dividing, and variable finding--the systematic shifting around of numbers and letters on a page according to some carefully memorized formula--this stuff, I'm pretty good at. But take those formulas out of that purely theoretical context, and ask me to apply it to some real life number crunching?  My brain congeals into lime Jell-o.  Useless.

Having never taken a Norwegian high school math test before, and not really having any--you know--friend thingies in the class that I could talk to, I had no idea what to expect.  Would it be easy? Hard?  Lots of drill type exercises?  Mostly long equations?  Would I have to prove anything?  Because--gah!--ask me to prove 'a' plus 'b' equals 'c' never 'd', and I'm totally fucked!  Or would I be faced mostly with my old nemesis, the story problem?  And if so, like seriously?  How hard?

So I worked, and I solved, and I memorized.  I ignored dishes, laundry, floors, and wet moldering rain pants under the stairs.  In short, I freaked a little bit out.  Then late Thrusday afternoon, I hit a wall.  Exhausted, I summoned up a little bit of my old sang froid, and breathed deep.  I either knew it, or I didn't.  I'll either be able so solve it, or I won't.  Either way--another deep breath--at least I have my health, and my children will always love me.  Ommmmmmmmm.

There was an accident in one of the tunnels through town early this morning.  At 8:30, as the tests were being handed out in my classroom, I was crammed into a crowded bus, idling on a bridge, a mere three minutes (in good traffic conditions) from my stop.  The driver was repeatedly asked, and repeatedly refused, to let any of us off the bus to just walk the rest of the way.  So there we sat for 50 minutes while they cleared the accident away (Turns out a father with two small boys in the car, collided with a truck, no one was seriously injured.  There's probably a logarithm somewhere that would explain how such a miracle is possible).

Mister soothed and reassured me continually via SMS.  If traffic is this back up, there will be others who are late for the test too.  She'll have to give you all extra time.  Don't worry.  Breathe.  Ommmmmmm.

I ended up being 40 minutes late for the test, but sure enough two other students ran in about the same time I did.  One girl was a good 15 minutes after us.  The teacher had heard about the accident.  No worries.  You'll have all the time you need, she said.  I was handed a single piece of paper with the test, and a stack of graph paper for my answers. 

Del (part) 1--45 minuter--uten hjelpemidler (no aides).  Shit!!!  That means no calculator!  I felt myself begin to panic, but then I looked at the problems.  Three of them.  Basic.  Pretty easy stuff.  There was one bit where she wanted me to explain the reason for my answer, but I didn't have to prove it.  So I think I'm okay there.

Once we had all turned in our first set of answers, we were allowed to turn the page over.  Del (part) 2--90 minuter--med hjelpemidler.  With aides.  Yey!  Hello, fancy scientific calculator, whom I've come to love.  Come, and let us do our thing.

Then, to my amazement, every single kid in the class reached into their backpacks and pulled out, not only their calculators, but also their textbooks and all their notes.  WHA-HUH?  We can use our freaking books?  Oh for hell's sake!  Is this normal?  I don't remember this from the math tests I took back forever ago when I was in high school?  Our books?  Seriously?

I didn't need mine.  Never even took it out of my bag.  Do I sound smug?  Because I feel a little smug.  Of course, there's always a chance that I managed to mess it up.  Misplaced a parenthesis, flipped the wrong negative, used the wrong function.  But, I kind of doubt it.  Even the two story problems didn't stump me.  Set it equal to this, plug in that, divide by this, log here, log there, raise it to this, punch it all into the calculator, and voila!  70 degrees Celsius after 6 hours. 

Doesn't exactly make me a math genius, but I'd have to say my wine is well deserved tonight.

P.S.  Except for a minor minunderstanding regarding the power of a cell wall to protect a plant cell from the ravages of sea water, my Biology test Wednesday?  Aced it.  Norwegain high school loves me.


Queen LaTeacha said...

Sheeeeeeit, Jamie! This is SO old-ground for you! When, oh WHEN, will you gain the confidence and acknowledge the fact that YOU CAN DO THIS!! Eyes closed, hands behind your back, dinner plans running through your multi-tasking brain. Piece o' cake, please pass the wine! Mommy says, "WELL DONE!"

Guitar said...

Way to go !!! We're very proud of you.
We knew you could do it.

Return to Norway said...

Well done!

tracy said...

You go girl! Congrats!

Dave said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I just wanted to say that, although I've had the opportunity to visit a great many places outside the US (I'm in the Navy), you have the great luck to live in the most beautiful city I've seen and still entertain wildly unlikely fantasies about moving to someday. Getting a former American's perspective on Norwegian life is great, and you are a very talented writer.

Oh, and well done on the math test!

勇氣 said...

Many a little makes a mickle.........................................