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The Function Defined as P = Math - College Essay

SineFine 2 / 7 2  
Nov 18, 2014   #1
Hello! I answered the first prompt for the Common App: "Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story". I'm generally so nervous and shy that I can't muster the courage to ask anyone in real life (not even my friends) to read it. It doesn't mean I don't want any feedback though. I'd appreciate all and any suggestions as well as grammatical corrections. Thank you.


Scrutinizing eyes wash over me. I feel the intensity of her stare even as my own eyes are focused on the backs of calendar pages, scrap paper. "What are you waiting for? Go on", she presses. Pencil in hand, I oblige her as I so often do. 1010, 1015, 1020, 1025, 1030, 1035. Strokes carefully form the makings of the next number: 1, 0, 4, and 0. Minutes transform into hours; the numbers begin to blend with one another as they swim in and out of my vision. Page after page fill up. I finish at 20,000 and present the finished product to the person beside me, my life's arbiter. Today, she smells decidedly of shampoo and ginger. With a mixture of pride and apprehension, I await judgement. Her eyes scour the paper for mistakes. Unable to find any, she releases me with pursed lips. If she was pleased, I can't tell. With no sign of approval or disapproval, she dismisses me. I am done for the day. I was five at the time.


vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Nov 18, 2014   #2
Peter, I find this to be a highly interesting essay that answers the prompt in a creative and engaging way. It almost sounded like you were talking about a tutor at the beginning, owing to the formality of the method of teaching, then to find out that it was simply your mother teaching you the basics of math, and you accepted it as a part of your daily development in life rather than objecting and opposing to it as other children might have done shows a great dynamic in your relationship with her. More importantly, the story shows a central part of your identity that you learned to develop with the help of others, you developed patience and understanding in a way that most parents are unable to teach their children. It is not always that one will come across an essay involving Math that can present the subject in such a crucial role in the development of the identity of the person. It is because of the way that you presented the connection of the development of your identity with Math and your mother that, in my opinion, makes this essay work very well as a response to the essay prompt :-)

I feel though that another paragraph can be added to the essay. One that further strengthens the way that you used what you learned in Math in your daily life, just to illustrate how Math has helped develop your identity as a person and how you have integrated the lessons you have learned in Math in your daily activities. I believe it will help give more substance to you claims in the end about Math having been able to help you develop your personality over time.
OP SineFine 2 / 7 2  
Nov 28, 2014   #3
Thank you for your feedback vangiespen. It is much appreciated. The last part of your response was much welcomed because the possibility of that deficiency in my essay had been nagging me at the back of my mind. For it to be validated so that I can go back and fix it, that was great. If you don't mind, could you peruse my latest edit and tell me what you think? Thanks!
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Nov 28, 2014   #4
Excellent work Peter. This is the kind of connection that I felt was missing in your first version of the essay. You have successfully portrayed the academic and practical applications of math in both fields of your life. The Betrand quote certainly fits the bill when it comes to this essay. I am glad you found and used it. If it won't make you go over the word count though, I think the essay can use a personal anecdote about how Math has affected your daily life problem solving skills. Just to prove the point that you tried to explain. Some readers are visual in nature so if you just explain it, they may not believe you at once. If you explain it in terms that they understand however, they are sure to see the connection between Math principles and your life and perhaps, even their own.
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Nov 29, 2014   #5
Peter, I think I can help edit the portion that you added. Hold on while I edit it :-)

Math teaches us to follow a systematic path in order to solve a given equation. In order to achieve a solution, one needs to be systematic, efficient, and disciplined when analyzing and solving the problem. Math taught me that the best way to approach a problem is with detachment, restraint, and reason. I have found that by applying such principles in my everyday life, such as when I lose my house keys and I cannot find it, Math has become an integral part of my life. In order to find my house keys, I retrace my steps and try to find the keys. If I can't find the keys, I test various scenarios (computations) hoping to resolve the situation. I analyze my options and then decide upon the best course of action. I try the windows to find an open one (testing variables), and if that doesn't work, I end up waiting for my parents to arrive with their keys to open the door (final computation result).

I might have used the wrong math terms in the parenthesis so just correct it. You can rephrase the whole paragraph that I wrote if you want to. This is just a sample of how the paragraph can be approached. Using it in this form is your choice :)
OP SineFine 2 / 7 2  
Nov 29, 2014   #6
The suggestion is much appreciated and I like where you're coming from. How's my take on on that paragraph?
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Nov 29, 2014   #7
It takes a mathematical mind to make sense of what I suggested. Hats off to you Peter. Excellent work :-) I think it will work very well with your essay. Can you do me a favor? Post the revised essay in this thread, with the latest paragraph addition so that I can read it and get a better idea of how it works with the rest of the essay content. We may need to make a few minor adjustments to make it flow smoothly and blend better. You can also make any additions you want at this point and I will review it for connection and transition in the essay. We are already in the final drafting stages so we need to work on the grammar corrections as well.
OP SineFine 2 / 7 2  
Nov 29, 2014   #8
Oh boy! I've looked the essay over many times and done what I can to make it clear. I hope that'll lighten the work load for flow and grammar.


Scrutinizing eyes wash over me. I feel the intensity of her gaze even as my own eyes focus on the blank backs of calendar pages, scrap paper.

"What are you waiting for? Go on", she firmly presses. Pencil in hand, I oblige her as I so often do. 1010, 1015, 1020. Strokes carefully form the next number: 1, 0, 2, and 5. Minutes become hours; numbers blend with one another as they swim in and out of my vision. I finish at 20,000 and present the finished product to the person beside me, my life's arbiter. Today, she smells of shampoo and ginger. I await judgment with a mixture of pride and apprehension. Calm and collected, she scours the papers for mistakes, poised to pounce on anything out of place. If she is pleased, I can't tell. Like always, her face remains an impassive mask as she eventually dismisses me.

Left without a hint of approval or disapproval, I was five at the time.

Every day, 365.25 days a year, we sat hunched over the kitchen table to observe this long-standing tradition. After the foundation of numbers set, the two of us branched into addition, multiplication, fractions, decimals, and the notorious algebra. The magical rules of adding fractions had me inevitably spellbound. The mysterious conventions orchestrating decimal point movement awed me. The introduction of variables left me helplessly mystified - "Mommy, are you sure? Why is the alphabet in my Math?" With each operation I performed, each number I manipulated, math was etched deeper and deeper into me. Every daily seating entwined mathematics a little more around the fiber of my being.

My mother stopped supervising my mathematics after fifth grade. I am now in twelfth grade, an AP Calculus student. If I even mention derivatives, she would play the memory card: "Oh, Peter, it has been too long!" But she and I both know about the change of roles. Once holding them with an iron grip, she has passed the reins over to me. You'd think that given this chance at freedom, I'd abandon my teachings. Instead, let this speak for my character. Over the years I've acquired a reverence for the discipline of mathematics. I would've never imagined that it contained such majestic puzzles, the methods arriving at their solutions both elegant and enlightening. Maneuvering about mathematical pitfalls, engaged in a battle of wits, I feel like I truly belong.

Creating order from disorder, math is my crutch in a life full of ambiguity and chaos. Its concreteness and rigour, where expressions like 1+1=2 always hold true, is a reassurance and one of life's few comforting consistencies. Absolute yet bound by its own laws, this subject possesses an unparalleled beauty. Bertrand Russell captures it in this quote: "Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty - a beauty cold and austere... sublimely pure".

Math frequently has me follow a systematic path to solve a given equation. Consequently, I learned to be logical, efficient, and meticulous in my analysis or response to problems. Take, for example, the predicament of how I am to enter my house after losing my keys (problem definition and identification). Before anything, I try to find the keys (preparatory analysis) by rechecking my pockets and retracing my steps. If I'm still empty-handed afterwards, I'll proceed to test my available options (computation) like climbing through an open window, forcing the back door open, waiting until my parents arrive with their keys, etc. The best course of action that emerges is the computational result. By applying these principles to everyday tasks, math becomes increasingly integral to my life.

So I thank the childhood ritual, one forged between mother and son, between unfeeling master and accommodating apprentice. It has shaped a central part of my identity and nurtured an unlikely passion. It brought me the objectivity and reason I admire so much.
OP SineFine 2 / 7 2  
Nov 30, 2014   #9
Sorry to rush you, vangiespen. Is the essay fine in its present form? Can I submit it today (hoping to do it by December 1st)?
vangiespen - / 4,137 1449  
Nov 30, 2014   #10
Hi Peter, no rush at all. The essay is ready save for one final edit that I have been trying to work into the essay since it stands out like a sore thumb. I think I found a way to fix it though. let me run the revised paragraph by you:

Without a hint of approval or disapproval in her face, I sat before my mother at the tender age of five, wishing to make her smile as I accomplish the task she has set before me, but without having any idea how to do it." What are you waiting for? Go on..."

That line about the hint of approval or disapproval was the only thing that I felt held the essay back from being ready for submission. I believe the essay works better this way and yes, it is ready for submission with this final and absolute change in the first paragraph. The rest of the essay is fine and should not be changed :-)

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