What Our Teachers Really Teach Us:

A Memoir on Nostalgia and Majoring in Applied Math Despite Never Learning Algebra 2

Of the five senses, smell has the strongest ability to evoke memories. It makes sense, then, that whenever they open their fridge to find that their milk has gone bad, Miss Bluman’s former students always think of her.

Yes, she smelled like sour milk; it was as if she had accidentally used yogurt as lotion every day for the last thirty years and never showered. There is a remarkable correlation between students who take her classes and students who subsequently become lactose intolerant. However, it is worth noting that climate scientists largely commend her for playing a large role in the decrease of dairy sales across the northeast. So, pros and cons. Aside from the sour smell, she was the sweetest woman in the world. She was the human equivalent of a sour patch kid: first sour, then sweet. Except that the sour never went away and it made everything far less appetizing.

Miss Bluman taught math, although the word ‘taught’ here is used loosely. To call her a math teacher would imply that she knew math, and she did not. So, more accurately, she waddled in front of the whiteboard and shakily ‘solved’ problems incorrectly in handwriting that was much too small, smelling too much like sour milk every time she moved.

My milky memories of algebra II include no graphing or trigonometry, because she didn’t teach us these things. Somehow it was the nine months of my life where I learned the least, including the nine months I spent in utero. Now in my third-year studying applied math, I still have to routinely Google “graph of log(x)”, by far the most embarrassing search history an Ivy League math student could have. Once, I tried to argue points back on a stats midterm and my professor didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t know how to graph the equation that we needed to solve the thirty-point problem and then he said I should’ve taken the pre-reqs for the class and then I said that I did take the pre-reqs and then he asked why I didn’t know how to graph the equation if I took the pre-reqs and then I tried to explain about Miss Bluman and then he said he wasn't going to give me any points back which was probably fair considering most fifteen year-olds could’ve graphed it and then I cried.

If you’re still waiting for a joke, here it is: in 18 months, I’m going to graduate from one of the best universities in the world with an applied math degree and I never formally learned what a piecewise function is. Good thing The Jug has a readership of like, seven people so my secret is still safe and no one will know. Well, almost no one. Professor Xu, if you’re reading this (I know you’re not), I’m sorry I cried. But don’t blame me, blame Miss Bluman.

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Brown University, Providence, RI

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