For those of you who aren’t familiar with the English educational system, G.C.S.E.s (General Certificate of Secondary Education) are taken at or around the age of 16 and are the qualifications with which you leave secondary school and move onto college. Ideally you should leave school with a minimum of five G.C.S.E.s; I left with eleven. So, you might be wondering why, nine years later, I decided to retake my Mathematics G.C.S.E, when I already had a perfectly acceptable C grade. The answer is; I like tornadoes.
Non-sequitur? Maybe. Backtrack a little and we’ll find out why. I have loved tornadoes ever since I saw Twister. One day I was thinking about people who had careers in fields that they were passionate about and I thought (as you do), maybe I should study meteorology. Except, to take a Meteorology degree in England, first you have to have A-levels in Maths and Physics. I don’t have those. Okay, I thought, let’s look at getting them first. Well, to study Maths or Physics at A-level, you need a B grade or higher in G.C.S.E. Maths or Physics. I took Combined Sciences and as I’ve said, got a C in Maths. So clearly, if I wanted to study weather science, first I was going to have to take the Maths G.C.S.E higher paper.
I’m going to come clean now and say that a few months into studying for the maths exam, I decided that I didn’t want to be a meteorologist (I subscribed to the International Journal of Meteorology because I thought it might be useful but I found it really boring. I like watching weather more than I like crunching numbers about it.) I decided to carry on with the maths though, because to my great surprise, I was really enjoying it. If you had told me in school that I would one day consider maths to be fun, I would have laughed in your face. Mind you, I would have done that if you’d told me I would one day voluntarily complete a half-marathon, so clearly my sixteen-year old self didn’t know me very well.
I wasn’t considered good at maths in school (I was predicted an E grade in my exams, so Lord knows how I got a C), and because of that I hated it. It turns out, having one-to-one tuition with a teacher who gets excited about his subject matter and actively cares about your success, makes learning a lot more enjoyable. That teacher was Be, who is my husband Elliot’s cousin. He has a degree in accounting and is training to be a maths teacher, so he was quite pleased to have a guinea pig student. At the same time, my husband (who was still my fiance at this point) was taking his Mathematics G.C.S.E for the first time (he didn’t have any English qualifications, being American, and it was an issue for a different course he wanted to take) at our local college. Elliot’s teacher was none other than Be’s dad (the maths brain runs in their family.) So, Elliot and I revised together, sat our exam together and anxiously awaited our results together.
Finally, about two months after our exams, we got our results; both of us passed -with a B grade! So now I have an A, five B’s and five C’s for my G.C.S.E.s, which is great. I am happy with my result, I worked really hard for it. I liked trigonometry the best because it makes sense to me, lovely geometrical puzzles that are so applicable to real-life situations (try designing a house without it!). I even made up a song to remember the sin and cosine rules. I think I enjoyed simultaneous equations the least because I find the process difficult. I liked maths with Be so much I even have plans to study the A-level with him (I may not want it for a meteorology degree but it’s useful for a lot), although not just yet because private tuition and examining as an external candidate is EXPENSIVE. I will have to come back to it later. All in all, I feel pretty good about myself. I like to push my boundaries and challenge my preconceptions of myself and I reckon I did just that. 🙂