In high school, I was an above-average student. I wasn’t at the tippy-top of the class, but I did manage to graduate 18th out of 238 students, even though I only enrolled in half of the honors and Advanced Placement courses that my peers took. While I wouldn’t advocate this route for my own children, I like to call the method “Working smarter, not harder”!
After taking trigonometry/probability/statistics class my junior year (and seeing the extreme curve the teacher graded the class on due to the fact that the trig part was near impossible for most of us — both juniors and seniors — to grasp), I was wary when I enrolled in pre-calculus for my senior year.
After getting a few quiz and test scores that looked more like winter temperatures (32? 43? 38?), I’d had enough. Since the school year had only begun a few weeks prior, I was still within the window of being able to change classes. The catch was that I needed permission not only from my parents, but also from my guidance counselor.
That’s where the problem began. I’d already decided which math course I wanted to take instead of pre-calculus going in to my scheduled appointment with the counselor, Mrs. X. It was a class called “Math of Finance.” The name is pretty self-explanatory, but it wasn’t considered a high math, nor was it an honors or an AP course.
Mrs. X’s response to my choice? “Why would you want to be in a class with THOSE kids?” Apparently, I was heading into a different social and academic class. Oh, boy. But many of “those kids” were friends of mine. I finally got my way, although I’ll admit that my main reason for ditching pre-calculus was so that colleges didn’t see a big, fat D or an F (letters I’ve never seen on a report card before).
The Best Class I Ever Took
Math of Finance turned out to be the most helpful class I’ve ever taken. I learned how to do my taxe and invest in stocks, and was introduced to the magic of compound interest. And how could you not like a teacher whose catchphrase was “Start early, and do it often” (regarding investing, of course)? It had just the right effect on us high school seniors: it screamed of sexual promise and it was something we’d remember for life. Well, at least, I did.
Because of both the teacher and the material, it was an interesting class, and one of the few high school classes that really stuck with me all these years. By showing us how much money we could save by starting at a young age and making sure it was in interest-bearing accounts, both I and “those kids” were well-prepared for real-world personal finance after graduation. We could balance our checkbooks and knew that interest could be compounded daily, monthly or yearly.
Pre-calculus couldn’t have taught me that.