Friday, May 13, 2016


My friend, Nathaniel, contemplates statistics 

There is a an old saying that there are no atheists in a foxhole.   In the heat of battle, with bombs flying and active shooters, there is nothing else to do but shoot and pray.

The same thing can be said of statistics.

In the year and a half that I have returned to community college, I learned a few things about the rules of engagement:
  1.   I had to set an academic goal and then strive to meet that goal;
  2.   I had to fulfill requirements in “the golden four” –basic skills which are required of all university students before transferring to a four-year college:
  •  Oral and Written Communication  (An indescribable joy of life)
  •  Arts and Humanities (Beautiful disciplines)
  •  Social Sciences (History, Political Science, and all other things awesome)
  • Scientific Inquiry and Quantitative Reasoning (oh no…really?)         
  • These rules apply to all students.  There are no exceptions.

Statistics fulfills all the requirements of quantitative reasoning.  The “most necessary math” is the thing that kills most students.  There is a statistical probability that 60% of all college students will drop out of college, citing math as the reason.  For a girl who always struggled with math, the challenge of statistics stood in the doorway of my academic future like a ninja, poised with sharpened blades in his hands.

After researching my options, I decided to enroll in STATWAY, a statistics pathway for students who are liberal arts, humanities, and social science majors. The program promised to fulfill my transfer math requirement in two semesters – rather than three.  

I don’t have to be a math major to know that three semesters is more than two semesters. 

In Statway, I would learn how statistics applied to real life. American River College had a math professor that was part of its inception, available tutors that would help me, and a group setting that was designed to help me succeed.   
 When I bought my calculator, a TI-84Plus, I took a picture and posted it to Instagram.  The caption read: “Behold the very weapon that will slay me."

Statway proved to be everything it said it would be: labor intensive, filled with classroom activities, and chock full of  statistical concepts and skills.

Each day – and I went Monday through Thursday – we worked in groups and dissected complicated problems to find the right samples, the right methods, the perfect tests, the best wording…to compile statistics.

At least three days a week I went to tutoring and sweat it out with fellow students who were just like me—clueless in math and needing to pass this class to go on. 

David leads us in tutoring
Statway was the hardest, most exhaustive, most thrilling math class I have ever taken.  It took me two semesters, four days a week and twenty hours of study per week outside of a classroom --but I did it.

I write this after my last day in Statway: I took my final this morning.  When I said goodbye to Mrs. Brock, my teacher, I almost started crying.  

I just checked my Facebook as I was going to bed tonight and saw my Statway friend, Karen, had posted a picture of a celebratory tall, frosty coffee beverage from Baskin Robbins.  The caption said: “I'm so grateful and thankful for the people who have walked with me faithfully during this last school year.”

I laughed and texted her back: “Stats is like an army trench - it makes war buddies that last forever!”

All of my fellow students are classic war buddies.  I respect and love them all for their sheer determination and decision to face that ninja in the doorway.  Not only did we finish, but we learned how to fight ninja- style.  

Now, whenever I face math, I will be less frightened.  If I can finish STATWAY, I can do anything.

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