A student composed the following draft in response to this broadly worded assignment: "After selecting a topic that interests you, compose an essay using strategies of cause and effect." Study the student's draft, and then respond to the discussion questions at the end. Finally, compare "Why I Hate Mathematics" to the student's revised version of the essay, "Learning to Hate Mathematics."
Draft Cause & Effect Essay: Why I Hate Mathematics
1 I hated arithmetic back in the third grade because I didn't want to memorize the times tables. Unlike learning how to read, there didn't seem to be any point to studying math. The alphabet was a code that could tell me all kinds of secrets after I had puzzled it out. Multiplication tables just told me how much six times nine was. There wasn't any pleasure in knowing that.
2 I really began to hate math when Sister Celine forced us to play counting contests. This old nun would make us stand up in rows, and then she would shout out problems. The ones who called out the correct answers fastest would win; those of us who answered wrong would have to sit down. Losing never bothered me that much. It was that feeling in the pit of my stomach before and right after she called out the numbers. You know, that math feeling. Somehow, not only did mathematics seem irrelevant and dull, it also became associated in my mind with speed and competition. Math just got worse as I got older. Negative numbers, I thought, were insane. You either have some or none, I figured--not negative some. My brother would try to talk me through the steps when helping me with my homework, and eventually I would puzzle things out (long after the rest of the class had moved on to something else), but I never understood the point of the puzzle. My teachers were always too busy to explain why any of this mattered. They couldn't see the point of explaining the point of it all. I started to cause problems for myself in high school by skipping homework. With geometry, of course, that means death. My teachers would punish me by making me stay after school to do more math problems. I came to associate the subject with pain and punishment. Though I'm through with math classes now, Math still has a way of making me ill. Sometimes at work or in line at the bank, I get that old nervous feeling again, as if Sister Celine is still out there shouting out problems. It's not that I can't do the math. It's just that it is math.
3 I know I'm not the only one who has grown up hating math, but that doesn't make me feel any better. The funny thing is, now that I don't have to study math anymore, I'm beginning to get interested in what it all means.
Evaluating the Draft
- The introductory paragraph lacks a clear thesis statement. Based on your reading of the rest of the draft, compose a thesis that clearly identifies the purpose and main idea of the essay.
- Point out places where the long body paragraph (from "I really began to hate math… " to "It's just that is math") might be divided to create three or four shorter paragraphs.
- Show where transitional expressions might be added to establish clearer connections between examples and ideas.
- The concluding paragraph is fairly abrupt. To improve this paragraph, what question might the student try to answer?
- What is your overall evaluation of this draft--its strengths and its weaknesses? What recommendations for revision would you offer to the student writer?
- Compare this draft with the revised version, retitled "Learning to Hate Mathematics." Identify some of the numerous changes that have been made in the revision, and consider in what particular ways the essay has been improved as a result.