Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Romance Enters the Equation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Romance Enters the Equation

Article excerpt

My high school daughter enters the room wearing a frown and carrying a deceptively thin textbook. "Do you remember anything about trig?" she asks.

I've always encouraged her to ask for help if she needs it, and math is something I'm generally good at. Though it's been nearly 30 years since trig and I crossed paths, I remember my trig class very well.

Unfortunately, the parts that might be of some use to my daughter this evening - sines and cosines, tangents and logarithms - have long since disappeared from memory. All I remember of trig is the romance.

In my mind it looks like a play. The setting is the 1971-72 school year in small-town Pennsylvania. I have landed the female lead as the quiet junior girl sitting near the back of the classroom. Good student, hard worker, comes to class knowing the material - and it's a good thing, since she spends most of the actual class time daydreaming about Bob, the heartthrob.

Bob has the male lead. He's president of the senior class, cute in a John Denver sort of way. Not a scholar, but charming, funny, and well liked by both students and teachers. My crush on Bob, already several years old, has been going nowhere.

Enter Mr. K. and trig. Before Scene I is over, Bob discovers that I am getting the hang of trig faster than he is. By the end of the first act, we are homework phone pals. I am in heaven.

It's intermission, and my daughter still needs a hand. I scan the day's assignment. I used to be so good at this! Now it's totally unfamiliar. "Let me look it over for a minute," I say. "I'll see if anything comes back to me." The audience returns to their seats. Act II is about to begin.

The action moves quickly. Bob and I stay after school to work together on the days before each test. Sometimes it's just the two of us, other times his friends John and Eli tag along. There is wit, banter, and flirtation between trig functions. All their math scores soar.

Eventually, Mr. …

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