Do The Math

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The idiom "pass muster" means to meet an acceptable standard. The first time anyone said it to me, I heard, "pass the mustard."

As a student with auditory processing issues, I often hear something not quite how it was said. Or I miss the middle piece of multi-step instructions. My usual strategy to deal with this is to repeat back what I've heard. But for the High School Exit Exam there is no talking. The part about being able to work the problems out on the test booklet? I never heard it. And the teacher wasn't "allowed" to repeat instructions. One by one, the students finished. The teacher and I shared that classroom together in awkward silence, at least for an hour after everyone else was gone. I was still working out the problems in my head.

I failed that particular exam that day by a few points. But I made the experience into a short film called "The Math Test," which won three awards and was accepted into film festivals across the United States from Los Angeles to Alabama. Clearly, my story had universal appeal.

Some students just aren't good test-takers, but you know you've learned something when you can show that you can use it. The process of filmmaking involves so many practical math elements: cost estimates, scheduling, sequencing, lens exposure rates, frame rates, dissolves (which are a percent of one image over another), digital storage issues, spatial organization and, of course, the music -- which I wrote.

So, the way I see it, I blew the test, but I did the math. By demonstrating practical competence, I, well I passed the mustard.


With a Perspective, I'm Sam Rubin.

Sam Rubin is 19 and a high school graduate with autism as well as a singer, actor, filmmaker and author.