Everyone can look back to one point in their academic career and say: “If only.”

For me, that time was eighth grade. I was a pretty fair student and got decent grades. When I returned to school in the Fall, I was shocked to see that the school had changed my math class from regular 8th grade math to geometry. Surprised, I went to the first class and sat through the first lecture. After class I went to the teacher and asked why I was in her class- advanced math. All the other students had been in the accelerated math classes and I wondered why I was sitting among them.

“We thought you’d be perfect for the class,” said Mrs. Cassel. “You’ve gotten good grades in the your other classes and you got an ‘A’ in the 7th grade math class you took last year.”

“But, the things you talked about today, well, I’ve never learned before,” I said a little skeptical of the spot promotion. I wasn’t falling for the faint praise.

“Oh don’t worry, you’ll pick it up soon enough. You’re smart.”

“Well… I don’t know about that.”

“And besides, by adding you and Dennis to the classroom that gives us a whole class.”

So that was it, I got bumped ahead to give them a full classroom. Sadly I didn’t “pick it up quick” as the teacher had predicted. I struggled all year long, pulling a B- out of my ass on the final exam of the year. It was a bad omen for me. Getting bumped ahead meant I went to high school and was in math classes with upper classmen and brainiacs. I struggled through it all getting mostly low Bs and Cs with a low water mark of D+ in Trigonometry.

I had to take math in college and calculus was an anchor around my neck. 3 quarters of 15 credits of math… getting Cs. My lack of mathematics prowess was shooting my GPA in the groin. All the while cursing my promotion those many years ago and wondering if 8th grade math held the linchpin to mathematics success.

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