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I did well in school until the year my dad’s transfer moved us from southern California to Las Vegas, Nev. It was in the 1960s, with over-crowded schools, busing issues and the Viet Nam war on the nightly news.
My algebra class had 95 students and two teachers. The teachers took turns — one at the front teaching — the other at the back monitoring student behavior. The first day of school the class was notified that “no questions are allowed.” The teachers were apologetic but firm — there was just not enough time in a 40-minute class to cover 95 student questions. The first quarter I earned an A, the second quarter a B, the third quarter a B-, and the fourth quarter a C. I was thankful there was not a fifth quarter.
By high school graduation, I had attended six schools in three states and earned my high school diploma without taking another math class. Twenty-five years after I had completed my 8th grade algebra class, I walked into a remedial math class at a nearby community college, a true “gem” in the shadows of Cornell University. In this “gem of a college” setting, my fellow students and I experienced small class sizes, faculty who knew us by name, and we were encouraged to ask all the questions we needed to ask.
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