My grade school had a HORRIBLE math curriculum.  Most of the teachers had earned tenure decades before I became a student.  The curriculum had been in place for about as long.  It wasn’t uncommon for certain teachers to put some kind of twist on our assignments in a desperate attempt to break the monotony.  Or at least, that’s the only reason I can come up with to explain why my fourth grade teacher suddenly decided all our math homework needed to be in code.  (Well, I suppose a deep-seated hatred of children could also explain it, but my fourth grade teacher was actually a very nice lady and didn’t seem like she enjoyed watching children suffer.)

I want to make it very clear that there was no good reason to assign math homework in code like this.  It didn’t make math more fun.  (It did the exact opposite.)  It wasn’t teaching us about using a code-key, we’d already learned how to use keys to decipher symbols in Geography.  And this was not the kind of code that prepared children for Algebra.  Math worksheets that prepare children for algebra look more like this:

We were given worksheets that looked like this:

It was literally just busy work.  Infuriating, pointless busy work.

And as if that wasn’t frustrating enough, I am dyslexic.  Using a key to decode stuff takes me about three times longer than “normal” people.  It also exponentially increases my likelihood of making a mistake, because I’ll mess up the decoding and then get the problem wrong only because I screwed up the pointless code.

Those single-sheet assignments made Fourth-Grade-Me FURIOUS.  So you can only imagine the almost berserk rage I felt when the teacher assigned a goddamn PACKET of coded worksheets.  With the key on the opposite pages of the math problems.  Which basically quadrupled the likelihood I was going to mess up decoding my homework.

It took me over an hour just to decode the damn thing.  I was almost crying with frustration by the time I was ready to actually do the math problems.

That’s when I decided that if the teacher could write my homework in code, I could write my answers in code too.  There was no rule saying I couldn’t do that.  I even checked with my mom before I started.  All she said was my homework’d better be 100% right if I pulled something like that.  (Then she helped me check my work and make sure everything was 100% right, because she’s a good mom.)

I made up my own code, and even drew up a key.  But because the teacher was older than me, and probably smarter, I decided it was only fair to make things a little harder for her.  So my homework ended up looking like this:

That’s right.  I made a key that translated my code into another code.  With a key for the second code, that translated to the teachers’s code.  So if the teacher wanted to grade my work, she had to use her own goddamn code.

The teacher opted to just give me 100% and a lecture on never doing that ever again.  But the coded worksheets stopped, so I won.

This sort of thing is probably why Mom refers to my parent teacher conferences as “hellacious.”