How I Learned to Love Geometry

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How I Learned to Love Geometry

This article appeared on Doing Life Together on May 26, 2017.

I met Deedee in Girl Scouts.

She went to public school, I attended parochial school. Our paths would never have crossed in elementary school were it not for Scouts.

What I remember most about Deedee from those early years is that she loved ballet, and often spent “down” time moving through her positions or practicing her arabesque.

Deedee’s family valued education. Her mom taught high school history; her dad was a Ph.D. who taught at a nearby college.

Her first name was really Cornelia. Her father affectionately called her Corn Doodle. (Back in the day, Corn Doodles were a snack something like Cheetos®.) From there, the nickname morphed into Doodle Deedle, Deedle, and, finally, Deedee. (One of her sisters was named Priscilla, nicknamed Lolly–but that’s another story).

We didn’t become good friends until high school, where we were in chorus together.

I hated math, mostly because I found it tedious and difficult. I had to repeat freshman algebra during the summer.

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But the first day of sophomore year, I discovered Deedee was in my geometry class. We also had lunch together the next period. We chose a table, sat down with our food, and after the first bite, Deedee opened her geometry book to the homework assignment and said, “How will we solve the first problem?”

My reaction was Can’t it wait? Like maybe seven hours or so?

But I didn’t understand something elemental about Deedee. She loved math. To her, problems were puzzles. She couldn’t wait to take them apart and conquer them.

That day set the tone for the whole year. Frequently, we started our homework during lunch. We didn’t necessarily finish it, but talking through the first few examples with Deedee helped me learn strategies for analyzing the problems. When I was stuck, she gently helped me draw figures, or reminded me of applicable theorems.

I did very well in geometry that year. And I actually enjoyed it.

I wish I could say the same for my junior and senior year math courses. Deedee was not in my classes then.

But I still use what I learned in geometry. Sometimes you have to calculate the area of something. Geometry comes in handy for figuring out how much fabric I need to sew curtains or piece a quilt.

Deedee Holt

The last time I saw Deedee was in 2002. My daughter and I were visiting my parents in my childhood home before I took her off to college. Deedee and her son, John, happened to be visiting town at the same time. We met at the Fireman’s Fair in an adjoining town.

Sadly, Deedee passed away ten years ago this month. She’d recently completed her course work toward a certificate to teach music, and was serving as a substitute teacher as she searched for a permanent job. I wanted her to move from Washington state to Arizona so she could teach in my district, but her son had just one more year of high school to go, and she didn’t want to uproot him.

The world is a bleaker place without Deedee. I’ll never forget her.

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