Cosine This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

May 28, 2012
I stare at the black-and-white page. Row after row of problems line the worksheet, front and back. Sin, cos, tan are everywhere. In second period, it seems like all my classmates are gobbling up sin(x + y) and half of the lowering powers formula while juggling sum-to-product formulas like they could do it in their sleep.

I feel like I'm reading a foreign language. A foreign language that hasn't been invented yet.

I used to like math. I used to like numbers, the way they fit together so perfectly in all those definite formulas. I liked algebra too. Most people say they were fine with math until the alphabet got mixed in, but I liked it even more. I was good at it. I enjoyed the triumph of finding x, of simplifying y. I got it.

Until ninth grade came along.

Then again, ninth grade doesn't just “come along.” People always say it does, like it's some big-shot in a suit ambling into town, picking up the kids who should be ready and slowly sweeping them away into a realm of excessive homework, sleep deprivation, and lousy cafeteria food.

But ninth grade doesn't just “come along.” It hits you in the face. Hard.

I liked trigonometry in seventh grade. I liked it in eighth grade. Hell, I even liked part of it in ninth grade. Then we flipped our books to Chapter 8.

I could handle sine. I could handle cosine and tangent and secant and cosecant. I still got it.

Now I'm staring at a blank worksheet, watching the clock tick along as another half hour passes and the pencil rests immobile in my hand. And still I'm too full of pride to admit I might need some help after all.

What was the formula for sin2x? Is cosine a negative function? What is a negative function? What was negative, again?

I can feel myself regressing. With each minute, this worksheet is making me dumber. Come on, I try to urge. Write something.

But the pencil remains frozen in my hand. Come on, something, anything. Just try it. I feel like my own math teacher is echoing in my head. For Christ's sake, do something!

I sigh and put down the pencil. I pad around the house, go up and down the stairs, through the hallways, back to the stairs again. I find myself in the kitchen, pouring a bowl of chocolate cereal usually reserved for school-day mornings.

I munch as I stare once again at the row of impossibilities called homework. I doodle. I try something and get a jumbled answer too big to fit on the page.

I erase.

I take another look at arcsin and have a revelation: I have no freaking clue what it means.

Instead I ponder the meaning of life for a good ten minutes, come up with something along the lines of the need to eat, and become increasingly interested in my cereal.

I chew on the end of my pencil. I run a hand through my hair. I make a teeny doodle in the corner of my paper.

I realize something.

I hate trigonometry.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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