I have an Intermediate Algebra test tomorrow on rational expressions and equations, and I don’t think I’m going to do well.

This is the second time in my college career that I’ve plodded through the “math tard” curriculum of elementary and intermediate algebra. Oh, I did ok the first time. But after two years, I didn’t remember any of it. Rational expressions is where my brain skid to a grinding halt the last time. This time is not any better. Everything else up until now has been a cakewalk. But I still have the rest of this semester, plus a semester of college algebra, and I’m scared (and exceedingly frustrated). Please tell me this isn’t going to get any harder.

I’m going to repeat that old chestnut that every math teacher has heard countless times: WHEN THE HELL AM I EVER GOING TO USE THIS STUFF??

Somewhere in the future:

**Me:** Ok, so how do I figure out my interest rate?

**Helpful bank person:** Ok, well you just factor both expressions, find the LCD, multiply all terms of the equation by a factor equal to 1, perform the operation, cancel, factor again if neccesary, set both terms equal to 0, and solve for X.

**Me:** (curled up on the floor in fetal position)

Before enrolling in my current program, I was a computer programming tech major at community college. I took the basic and intermediate algebra, computer math (discrete math) and elementary stats (only got a C). And from what I know about programming, everything about algebra that applies to computer programming is learned in the first two weeks of the course. (This is assuming that you’re not programming graphics, engineering, or scientific applications).

It turns out that my problem is what psychologists call dyscalculia. The list of symptoms on this page describe me to a T:

Normal or accelerated language acquisition: verbal, reading, writing. Good visual memory for the printed word. Good in the areas of science (until a level requiring higher math skills is reached).

Difficulty with the abstract concepts of time and direction. May be chronically late.

Poor mental math ability.

Poor with money and credit.

May have difficulty grasping concepts of formal music education.

May have poor athletic coordination.

Great! Now when are they gonna come out with a pill to treat it?

Oh, and this is pretty funny too. For a discipline that is allegedly so rational, orderly and perfect, there certainly is a lot about it that seems arbitrary.