Saturday, September 18, 2010

Memorable Math Teachers

I remember my grade 12 math teacher to be a calm not-too-exciting teacher who just systematically, day after day,  went through the textbook material.   He was predictable and while his classes were not extremely enjoyable, I did alright.

However,   he did do one thing that changed my life.   He encouraged me to write the Canada-wide Euclid Math Contest,  and provided me lots of old exams to practice with.     For the next few months,  another student and myself,  worked together at lunch hours to solve these problems.   The more we got into it, the more we loved it.    Later on, my dad started to work on these practice problems at home with me as well,  and we solved problems together.    The more we got into it, the more we loved it.   After doing many practice exams,  I ended up scoring in the top 10 percent in Canada, and won an award.  This really boosted my confidence and interest in Math.   It made me realise that  Math is a subject that I can master,  if I worked hard enough.     Previously I had assumed some common myths:   "if you're not a math person,  you won't get it",   "either you get it, or you don't",  or  "you have to be really smart to be good in math".    After doing the Euclid Math Contest,   I learnt that practice does make a difference.  Edison said that genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.   I'd argue that once you do put in the "perspiration",  the "inspiration" will increase too!    I am thankful to my teacher for encouraging me.

Another math teacher I remember was my Math tutor in first year at UBC.  She was a 4th year student, and I really  looked  up to her.   I was completely lost in first year calculus,  despite being top of the class while back in highschool.    I just didn't get it.    My tutor was able to help me understand the concept, and show me how to solve the assignment problems.   It felt so good to finally get the hang of it.   I believe she used a combination of relational and instrumental strategies to help me understand, and I had the freedom to ask her questions when I didn't understand.    During lecture time, I was often afraid to raise questions in a big lecture hall of first-year engineering "keeners".

1 comment:

  1. These are wonderful stories, Carly. I can the origins of some of the material for your "grateful" future student's letter too! How terrific that your experiences with the Euclid contest were so transformative for you. I had similar experiences in feeling positive and excited about mathematics via math contests in high school.

    It's also really important to remember those times that we "didn't get it" in math -- how it felt, why we were stuck there for a while, and how we got out of it, with support from good teachers and tutors. So many of our students are at that point at any given time, and being able to empathize helps us help and encourage them.