I am still struggling in math. The sequences of long symbols depict to me only a disconnect between numbers and common logic. The long formulas fill up with digits like a basin, and tangle down the blue lines in my notebook: dimensional analysis is not my strong point.

The Pre-Algebra 1B teacher always hands back my test with smoke stains. Karisa, the girl behind me, lives in the slums of Trenton, New Jersey: she is of unappreciated genius. Zack, sitting on the far opposite side of the room, doesn't complete any of his homework but aces tests and exams consistently. He doesn't need to waste time on busywork that won't help him learn.

A quarter of my grade is in ensuring that my binder is in order; in making sure that all the class handouts--and all of my smokey, graded, failed homework--is neat and tidy. Failing a test or missing an assignment is received with belittlement from the teacher, while success is met with professional apathy.

There is no motivation.