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Insider tips for math students

I became a math student because when it comes to school, that is all I am good at. Although I am a decent copy-editor, I can’t write an essay to save my life. Since your value as a student is represented by percentages and equations, math students have a significant advantage; however, there are also some major drawbacks to being in the mathematics stream at Trent.

It is made to be quite an exclusive club, and with the small amount of support we receive, even A-students are never safe from a dreaded C. In first year, my classes were in the hundreds, and in second year, 30 students is a large class. The faculty did a good job of discouraging students from pursuing mathematics.

Speaking of my first year, it went well for me, for the most part. I scraped by with a GPA just barely within scholarship range. You might now be thinking, “Wow that’s great, what is he complaining for?” I treat school like it’s my job. I do math between five and 13 hours each day. I take maybe two days off monthly.

So, if I get a C, I am missing over 30% of the material. But am I really? That would be nearly impossible. So, I say I barely scraped by because I had a particular professor, we’ll call him Dr. Doom, whose classes hurt me so much, I finished with a whopping overall 8%. That pretty much eliminates any hope of getting a full ride. You can assume that I am like the majority of students in that I have roughly negative $1 million.

Another thing that made first year kind of rough was that it didn’t feel like the majority of people did very well. That made it very hard to find a fellow student who was able to help me out. Unfortunately, the Champlain (now OC) math help centre was unable to contribute to my first-year assignments and I was told later that their function was to provide high school level math help…  at a university. The Gzowski student math tutors are amazing, but there is often no room to stand, let alone sit at the math centre – and the faculty will kick you out because that is where their meetings are.

Your best bet if you’re struggling is to see your teaching assistant; they are magical. That is, if you have one. I am now in my second year and out of the five classes I’m taking, I have a TA for one. Many of my classes have also fallen below the minimum number of class hours (36) as outlined by Trent’s own policy.

Faculty treats this policy as a “loose guideline” and a “fudge-able minimum.” Meanwhile, we are seeing very high dropout rates in these classes where the minimum was not met. My career and economic stability are not fudge-able. Our grades will have adverse affects on our lives for decades to come and it does not feel like Trent takes their end quite as seriously.

This is getting too negative; let’s get back to pros of being a math student. YouTube! I got my highest grade ever because of Kahn Academy on YouTube. Seriously, if you are taking Linear Algebra, watch all the videos on that topic; you’ll be glad you did and you can skip the cash grab textbook.

But this begs the question: How can a series of free automated videos get me through an entire class, but a prof can utterly fail to get some hard-working students through their classes? In the cases where I received below the minimum class hours, I would have much rather taken the classes online instead.  If you are below 36 hours, it really defeats the purpose of paying the prof in the first place. YouTube becomes much more effective than a series of rushed, half-baked lectures.

Most people don’t like math and I don’t blame them. I’ve pushed this farther than I think most people normally would, and I am starting to feel not quite sane. This might be because even after my hard work, there is still no sense of stability for my future.

I feel like I am guaranteed to fail classes regardless of my actions and it is severely impacting my mental health. I do not believe that there is any chance I would make it through my third year at Trent, which is why I will not return next year. It is far too risky for me to invest more money here. It feels like the faculty want mathematics to be an elite club and it feels very spiteful. At the end of the day, I feel like a means of income for Trent rather than a human being.

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