The Haven
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The Haven

Message To My Seventh Grade Math Teacher to Rub In Her Face That I Was Right When I Said I’d Never Need Math in Real Life

Dear Mrs. Kurlander,

This is Gila Pfeffer, a former student in your seventh-grade math class in Montclair Middle School in 1990. If my name sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because you’ve come across my bylines in major national newspapers, heard my TED talk entitled “Read More; Math Less” or have seen advertisements for my memoir, “The Burden of Always Being Right” (available wherever fine books are sold!).

I hope you are safe and healthy and keeping sane blah blah blah ok, let’s cut the crap. It’s been three decades since I last sat in the back of your classroom pretending to pay attention when I was actually reading books and eating a bag of Snyder’s pretzels under my desk. The books you’d frequently confiscate from me because “tHIs iS a mAth CLaSs”. It may have taken you a minute to recognize me as I am no longer the zitty, frizzy haired brace face I was when you tortured me with your quadratic equations, insisting that knowing these formulas was “essential” to life. You can see from my profile pic, I look downright fabulous.

You look pretty much the same- like a person who thinks that the world absolutely revolves around math, only now with a shit ton of grandkids. Congrats, I’m happy for you.

But all that time you spent defending your position that math was important because we’d ‘neEd iT LAteR iN liFE’, if for no other reason than to help our own kids with math homework (read that last line back and tell me it doesn’t sound like a Kafkaesque vicious cycle of futility, yes I made a literary reference because literature actually IS useful later in life. Unlike math) turned out to be a waste. Not only have I literally, never in my adult life needed to calculate the angles of a triangle, but to the extent that I ever do, there is a thing called Google. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

You see, by the time my kids went off to school, we had Google. Now, when my poor children, all of whom have inherited my utter ineptitude for all things mathematical-but have stellar commands over the English language, thank you very much- need help with homework, I need not do more than yell “Hey Google, convert 36/7 into an improper fraction!” and not only do they get the correct answer, they are also given the information they need to “show their work”. Oh, you just LOVED to yammer on about the importance of showing our work. Well, Mrs. Kurlander, I have outsourced that work so I can show it to you while also leaving myself energy and headspace to read books, glorious books.

Speaking of books, here’s a fun fact that crops up in every single article I’ve ever seen about the top ten habits of successful CEOs: they all quote the world’s most successful people as saying that READING is the key to success. Reading tons of books is where it’s at. All day reading. Nothing about math. Zero. (Ok, that was technically a math reference.)

I’ve been back and forthing over whether or not to reach out to you on this issue, let bygones be bygones. After all, I’ve never been one to say, ‘I told you so.’ Actually, no, that’s my sister who’s like that. I am TOTALLY a person who says, ‘I told you so’. I’m also not above shouting ‘In your face!’ when applicable. Such as in this case.

What’s my aim in writing after all these years? Closure. I want to hear you admit that you were wrong. That I was right. And short of that, can you at least follow me on all of my social media platforms and buy my memoir which retails for $18.99. In fact, you can now purchase five copies for the price of four which comes to……oh why don’t YOU just figure that out.



A Place to Be Funny Without Being a Jerk

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Gila Pfeffer

Writing a collection of reluctantly inspirational essays about outsmarting my genetic destiny. Jewish American mom of teens in London. IG, Twitter: @gilapfeffer