by baldilocks

Around the time of 9/11, during one of my many sojourns into higher education, I was in a CAD program–which I regret not finishing. One of the required courses was Algebra and I did well, out of 100 achieving a 96 average — math being one of my favorite subjects.  And, most heartening, in an admittedly chauvinistic way, the only other person who did better than I did in the subject was also a black woman. (We were the only women there of any coating.)

By no means were the men in that class either stupid or ungifted. However, they were uniformly very young—at least they seemed so to my then forty-year-old self.  One of the things that they marveled at about me was that I could do simple arithmetic in my head.  When one of them asked me how this came to be, I explained that I was born well before the advent of the calculator and was taught at home to memorize multiplication tables.  Another of the young men made some joke about my age and a slide rule and, though I laughed, I realized how archaic that device had become. Following on the realization that I hadn’t seen one since the early 1980s, I was impressed that the guy even knew of the tool.

Being around so many innately very intelligent young people who had been—as far as I could see then—short-changed by the very same type of technology that they were learning to manipulate to make a living, made me a little sad. However, now I know that those men—and that young lady who kicked my behind in Algebra–are the blessed ones. They had the desire to know — something that is all too rare.

I still plan to return for my B.S. in mathematics.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on

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