Don’t quit, you will get the hang of it

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2001

The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not attained by sudden flight,

But they, while their companions slept,

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Were toiling upward in the night.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As adults, we sometimes experience something through contact with a child that brings our childhood memories flooding to the surface.

That’s exactly what happened to me a week ago.

I was helping an elementary school friend of mine study multiplication.

First, I must confess, I was worried because I am NOT the one to be helping someone with math. Multiplication and division gave me (and my parents) a terrible time in school. I was the one who struggled to finish the first problem while the student next to me was already on No. 5. And, I literally pitched a fit every night when it came time to do my math homework. My mother was a business major, so math came easy to her and there I was ­ unable to comprehend it.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Kemp, told us we ought to know our multiplication tables so well that if she called us in the middle of the night, we’d be able to recite them while half asleep. Well, my subconscious took that "threat" seriously and one night, my mother heard a noise in my bedroom. When she peaked in, she discovered I was reciting those multiplication tables in my sleep. Needless to say, she had to share that story with my teacher and she, in turn, shared it with my class. Boy was I humiliated!

What made it even worse, is those multiplication tables may have come easily when I was asleep, but they were very hard when I was awake.

Last week, as I watched this girl struggle over her multiplication worksheet, I was reminded of everything I felt and thought when I was her age. Her frustration was a mirror of my experience.

At that moment, I realized, "maybe I am the best person to help her because she’ll be able to see someone can succeed even if multiplication and division is hard."

The silence swept into my living room that Saturday afternoon. Frustration was clearly visible on her face.

That’s when I told her to stop, look me in the face and listen to what I had to say. I told her all about my troubles with math ­ the crying fits and desire to rip every page out of the math book. when it was time to do homework. My poor mother!

Apparently, she heard what I said because her attitude of "I can’t do it," soon changed to "I didn’t think I could do it."

She’s also brought up her grades in math and science, which makes me very proud of her. I understand ­ all too well ­ what she’s experiencing and hope my story helped her in some way.

Basically, the advice I gave her was the same sentiment expressed by one of history’s most admired women, Helen Keller, who was quoted as saying, "We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough."

Multiplication and division may be hard, but it has to be done even if it takes some a little longer (and later) than others.


Contact Us

Letters: Send your commentary to the Troy Messenger.

News tips: Have a story or tip for our staff?

Subscribe: Get the Troy Messenger delivered to your door or mailbox.