MBA Math Meltdowns

by - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

We're going to start this post with a fun little story. (And by this I mean fun for you and probably embarrassing for me).

Nerd alert: When I was a kid, I would come home from school every day and immediately want to get my homework out of the way. I'd sit down at the kitchen table and try to finish it as fast as possible.

School always came pretty easily to me as a kid (did I mention I was a nerd?), so this was never really a problem.

Here's my high school AP English class. We were cool.

Except when it came to math.

Now you would think, growing up the child of a mechanical engineer and a financial analyst, I'd be all left-brain dominate and rock at math. You'd be so, so wrong.

Some math I totally got. Basic algebra, I'm looking at you. I could solve for X all day long. But other math, I couldn't figure out to save my life.

So my parents, being the kind and loving people they are, would try to help me with the concepts and problems I didn't get. My dad especially spent a lot of time helping me figure things out. Except...the problem was, he had a different approach than what I'd learned in school, and this led me to have repeat meltdowns.

This largely happened in middle school, so here's an awkward middle school field trip photo to break up all this text.

Field trip to Baltimore (7th grade I think.)

I remember knockdown drag out screaming fits (I was a brat), where I told my dad everything he showed me was wrong, even his right answer was wrong because he got there in the wrong way. I'd be in hysterical tears sobbing about how I was stupid and going to fail at school and life and never go to a good college (not overly dramatic at all...).

My major meltdowns were apparently the only way as a kid I knew how to express the extreme frustration I was feeling at not understanding the material. It's a good thing my dad loves me because I don't know how he didn't disown me after moments like that.

If you've been reading for a while, you might have picked up on the fact that I'm a bit of a high-stress, Type A perfectionistic person. Heck if you've talked to me for more than five minutes you've probably noticed this too.

Apparently these traits are something I've carried with me since I was an overly high-strung child.

Now that I've outgrown the meltdowns and mainly function like a normal human being, I find the Type-Aness kind of awesome. It helps me kick butt at work and at life in general.

But it also sometimes leads me to put moderately unrealistic OK, who are we kidding, ridiculously unrealistic expectations on myself.

Take grad school for example. When I started my MBA program in the fall, I was giving myself this pep talk on how I've got a lot going on in life and I'm doing this part time and really, I will be happy with a solid 3.0 and B's in my classes. (Yes I was pep talking myself to accept averageness).

Class is in session. And dinner is served.
MBA life

Start of class day one, my laid back approach to school is completely thrown out the window, and I'm all about a 4.0. Because I'm a crazy person.

Last semester, with a normal amount of work and a large amount of flashcards, I made this happen pretty comfortably -- earning high As in both of my classes.

Flashcards on flashcards on flashcards. Save me.
This is a normal amount of flashcards right?

This semester rolls around and I'm not even kidding, I had one of those childhood math meltdowns again within the first week of classes. Granted, it was in my apartment by myself. I wasn't screaming at anyone. I was just reading and re-reading an assignment for one of my accounting classes and not understanding a word.

Accounting makes me want to cry
Cost accounting is evil.

I didn't know where to start. I didn't know what the professor was asking for. I didn't understand the math, and I just felt a million levels of frustration, and the next thing I know, I can't even see my computer any more because I'm crying.

I will say in the 15+ years since my kiddo meltdowns, I've learned a little bit more about handling frustration and stress. This time around, I let the tears fall for a few minutes to get out the emotion and then came up with a plan of attack.

I still feel like I'm on fairly shaky ground in the class and that my beautiful 4.0 may be in jeopardy, which obviously doesn't sit well with me, but I have a plan, and few things make me feel more comfortable than a good solid plan.

Good teachers make all the difference in the world.
Straight As...are they so much to ask for?

I didn't start business school to have another chance to get good grades. I started it to learn and advance in my career and pick up new skills. That means sometimes things are going to be hard or I'm not going to understand them right away, and that's OK. And I'm learning to let myself be OK with that, which is something I'm so, so not used to.

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  1. Andrea8:00 AM

    ...hey, I know those awkward kids :) I have been the same way since going back to svool. I have 2 or 3 A- grades and they kill me lol.

  2. As a total math nerd I can get behind your meldowns. Cost accounting was designed to screw with your head.

  3. Best wishes and stick with it. Even if it doesn't go as well as you would hope, remember that we often learn as much (if not more) when things go wrong as we do when things go great.