It's probably an odd thing to say on a blog from a writer, a blog that often deals with writing, and from someone who teaches creative writing, but I was a math person when I was a kid. Technically, I suppose I still am, but I loved math when I was a kid. I did math for fun when I was a kid. Seriously. I loved math and I loved to read; I suppose that was an odd combination. People seem to think so, anyway. At any rate, I gave up on math a long time ago. It all started with geometry.
Don't get me wrong, I was good at geometry, excellent, actually, but I'll get to that in a moment. I was good at it; I just hated it. To be fair to Geometry, it wasn't Geometry's fault that I hated it. No, that honor goes to the teacher who made us memorize all the theorems and postulates by chapter notation. So, on a test, if we had to do a proof (and you always had to do proofs, because that's what geometry is), and we needed to use a particular theorem, we had to know it as, for instance, Theorem 16.2 and, then, quote the theorem. But the 16.2 part was completely arbitrary based on the book we were using, and it kind of pissed me off that we had to know that when it was completely not useful once we were out of the class.
Also, I hated doing problems that could potentially take up an entire sheet of paper.
But I was good at it. As in, I had the highest grade in the class good at it, and I didn't even pay attention. Reading was strictly forbidden during my geometry class. The teacher routinely had a stack of books she'd taken away from students for reading during class, but she let me read. I suppose when you have a student whose carrying 106% that it might be safer just to let him read. Did I mention that this was honors geometry? Yeah, it was.
There are two things you need to know:
1. Every test had a couple of bonus problems on it. [Yes, I always did the bonus problems. Not because I wanted the points, but because I couldn't make myself leave the problems blank.]
2. Along with the grade for the specific test, when we got the tests back, our overall grade was also on the test. Actually, it was our grade before the test and after the test so that we could see how the test had affected our grades.
I say every test had bonus problems, but there was one that didn't. I didn't think it was significant at the time. Not while I was taking the test, at any rate. However, I didn't feel that way about it when I got the test back. See, the 100% I'd made on the test had lowered my grade in the class. Yeah, you heard me; the perfect score lowered my grade. I sat there and stared at that for a while being kind of weirded out by it. Then, I did the math. You know, just to be sure I was seeing what I was seeing even though I knew that I was. Yes, the 100% lowered my grade.
There's just something inherently not right about that. It didn't matter from any kind of practical standpoint, but my sense of justice was... It wasn't happy with the situation. My teacher thought it was funny. And it is funny, but, as you can see, it made an impression on me. And it's a bit of a life lesson: There are times when you can do everything right, do a perfect job, and it will hurt your score. So to speak. You did all you could do, and it was all the right stuff to do, but it still has a negative impact.
I suppose the way to look at that is this:
Suppose you had done nothing. Or that you had done the wrong thing. The negative impact would have been so much greater. So it becomes all about doing the most you can to keep the negative results at a minimum. I guess, in some situations, that's the best you can hope for.
The thing that has me thinking about this is that my daughter is going through the same sort of thing right now in Spanish. She has something like 110% in the class (or 112% (something ridiculous, at any rate)) and, recently, she turned something in on which she only got 105%. Yes, it brought her grade down. She was very upset. There were a lot of "It's not fair!"s thrown around. I did explain it to her and told her my geometry story (which made her feel slightly better since it had happened to someone else), but it didn't really keep her from seething about it for a while. It just made her more determined to get her grade back up to where it was.
She has a good attitude about those things. I mean, she has the right attitude in how to deal with them. Instead of getting depressed or saying "what's the point," she's using it as motivation. That's how you respond to the inequities in life, let them inspire you to rise higher.