What the heck is a cosine?

What the heck is a cosine anyway?

What the heck is a cosine anyway?

Sitting at my hairdresser’s on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but overhear the excitement in her daughter’s voice as she discussed her much anticipated CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) results. The other patrons offered encouragement and support, while she was clearly envisioning herself in shades of beige and brown.

I, on the other hand, sat sullenly revisting my own relationship with that dreaded day. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely thrilled for my young friend who I’ve had the privilege of watching develop. However, I am still a little bitter about the entrance requirements of our premier institution of higher education, which has unofficially become a rite of passage.

Math has always been the bane of my existence. Of course I can put one plus one together, calculate percentages, and I am pretty decent at long division. It’s all these other things that get in the way. I
wish Pythagoras was still around. I’d love to discuss his theorem and exactly why he thought it would add value to my life.

It’s been well over ten years since I was told I would need matrices at some point in my life. Still waiting. And I
have yet to even touch a protractor since Form 5. Has anyone ever said: “Man, I could really use the cosine of x right now?” Safe to say that has never happened.

My disdain for math is deep and plummeted further when I received my CXC slip all those years ago.

Four. The glaring number slapped me in the face while I silently willed it to transform into a more favourable result.

Although (since I’m being honest) it was not wholly unexpected. After all, during the exam my thoughts had quickly turned to the previous night’s episode of ‘The Young and the Restless’ when I encountered the first problem I was unable to solve. Things disintegrated quickly from there. The after-school lessons that I had been firmly ensconced in since Stage 2 (yes, I am from that era) could not save me. And this I accept.

What continues to make my hackles rise is how much emphasis is placed on this one subject and the stranglehold it is allowed to have on the future.

Literature, languages, and English are my loves. I grew up reading voraciously; a pastime which I still indulge in today. Nothing would annoy my grandmother more than my penchant for reading at the table at mealtime.
Even though she was responsible for my obsession. After all these years I still treasure my childhood books and literature pieces. It is not unusual for me to pick one up from time to time and get lost in the plot, as I did when I first read it.

So it was no surprise to anyone that I intended to pursue literature, French, and Spanish at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College—but then I failed math. Forget about my distinctions in the subjects that I was applying for. Forget about my other stellar grades, all because I failed a subject I had no aptitude for and was not interested in.

It also didn’t help that a friend came bounding in waving her slip in jubilation at the string of threes she had attained. But who cares if I had exceeded that. She had passed the vaunted math and I had failed.

The school explained that this was their standard requirement for gaining admission and to some degree I understand that. But can this really be called a standard? Is this truly the way to attract the best and the brightest? Is it really fair to deny admission to students who have excelled in the subjects they intend to further simply because they have faltered in the ones that elude them?

With all the changes being contemplated for our education system, I think this one should be given a second look. We might be missing out on future scientists, business tycoons, and Nobel laureates—and all because they couldn’t tell a vector from a joint variation.

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