I am taking the GRE in less than a week and I just want to get it over with.

I blew a lot of time drilling myself on the verbal portion even though I probably didn’t need to. My attack plan has been to focus extra hard on the verbal part in order to procrastinate from learning the icky math. My vocabulary is not amazing, but I used this exam as an excuse to make it amazing. I downloaded a vocabulary app onto my cell phone to learn words that I will probably not remember a month from now and clicked my way through it on my lunch break in between bites of soggy homemade pizza.

Torpor… decorous… vociferous…

Every time I see the word “antediluvian” I sneer and say it aloud in my snootiest British accent. *Antediluvian*.

But I really should have been studying the times tables.

8 x 12 = ?

I began studying for the math section of about two weeks ago and have since relied on Dave to remind me of the most basic concepts. I don’t remember learning the fact that any number divided by itself is one. I don’t remember the last time I had to divide anything. These supposedly basic concepts are ten years away from me and I am riffling through my nightmarish recollections of math class, finding only traumatic memories of when I was castigated for writing out a formula too slowly on the white board in front of the classroom. Every few minutes I drag Dave to the open Princeton Review book.

“What do you do when there are two variables?”

For those who do not know, equations were invented by a group of mathematicians during a particularly onerous road trip to visit elderly relatives in South Carolina. When the highways became too desolate for their game of I Spy to continue, they played a new game called “solve for X.” Hours passed and they just kept making up new rules. What if there are two Xs? What if we introduce a Y?

Had they known that their little game would have stultified millions of teenagers for an upward of forty minutes every school day, perhaps they would have ended the game before it was too late. No, mathematicians are notoriously selfish beings. They think of no one but themselves.

By the time they got to Topsail Beach, they were throwing negative numbers and square roots into the mix. For them it was like a game of pinball made exponentially more interesting when more balls are thrown into the machine. Their flippers went crazy, the balls were shooting around the machine like electrons, the bells and the lights were out of control and it was stimulating and exciting.

I think the root of my math grudge is buried deep in my lack of context. When does one actually use a quadratic equation? What are negative numbers, anyways? Who in the world is using all this math? Something just isn’t clicking.

The test is less than a week away. I can hear the endearingly sassy voice of the Princeton Review GRE workbook telling me that this isn’t really a test of my intelligence. I can outsmart the test, I repeat to myself as I practice my times tables. What kind of grad student doesn’t know her times tables?