I have a C in GCSE maths. In fact I have an E, a D and a C in GCSE maths.
So why, 22 years after my first attempt, was I compelled to sit it again?
What was I thinking?
I am 38 years old, a full-time worker, a mother, a wife – it’s not like I am time-rich and yet I sacrificed what little free time I had between November to June to sit for hours and face my demon.
Maths has always been my nemesis. I shy away from anything remotely mathematical. “Words are my thing, not numbers,” remains my mantra.
It stems from my time in secondary school.
My maths teacher had worked at the school forever. Generations of pupils had been taught by this short, wiry north Walian with an academic beard and a hairstyle to match. Now he was tasked with having me in his class.
Some wag decades previously had given him the moniker Squareroot. A grammar school teacher with grammar school values. The type of man who thought nothing of launching a dusty wooden blackboard rubber at some poor soul at the back of class for no good reason.
It quickly became apparent to both Squareroot and the rest of the class that maths was not my forte. As he expertly flung the results of weekly test papers at me, it caught me full on in the face followed by his melodramatic yell with the devastating result of 45% echoing around the classroom. Oh dear.
This weekly humiliation continued for the rest of the school year. It became the stuff of corridor fodder – what mark was Squareroot going to issue her with this week? I’m sure behind my back, sweepstakes were being undertaken with dinner money exchanging hands. It was excruciating.
An all time low of 18% hit me close to the end of term. I seemed to be getting worse despite Squareroot’s fury at why I couldn’t understand. In the end, he realised he was dealing with a complete no-hoper and abandoned the cause.
Unfortunately for Squareroot, he was to remain my teacher for the next two years and was only able to escape me when finally I was moved into a new class.
At 16 I sat my first maths GCSE scoring an E. Not bad considering.
I thought I’d give it another shot and in the November re-sits managed a D. And finally, after six years of maths hell, that long anticipated C finally landed in my grateful and relieved lap. The realisation that I would never have to think about maths ever again was sweet.
I did not suspect 22 years after that first attempt, I would find myself sitting GCSE maths again. But with a young child about to start school, I felt I had to conquer it and overcome my fear so I wouldn’t instil it into the next generation. And so I found a tutor, signed on the dotted line to sit the exam and hoped for B this time.
Work colleagues hooted with laughter when they heard and there was much mirth to be had when everyone around me had a go at one of the questions. The majority of them got the answer wrong. It seemed I was not alone.
All the while, my patient and intelligent tutor guided me through the fog.
Exam day came around fast and having spent the previous two weeks locked in the kitchen, ignoring my family and engrossed in mastering quadratic equations and the like, I was ready.
The first half of the Edexcel paper was a breeze.
Then we got to question 19. And it was clear that the examiner had had a bust up with their spouse. The sweet, mild and expected questions that had up to this point dominated the exam paper was replaced with what can only be described as some kind of evil. A quadratic equation disguised as a probability question. I felt sick. The panic rose, and the clock started to speed up.
I was back to the nightmare of Squareroot’s class.
Needless to say, I couldn’t complete the paper. And the following week with paper two looming, my confidence remained at an all time low. Time ran out yet again and big mark questions went unanswered.
And now here I am waiting to see what I got. I just hope that I don’t drop a grade or two…