Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Math History

So I have this class, and I had to write my "math history" for it. I had to give a high point, a low point, a turning point, two "math scenes," my single greatest challenge, and two possible futures (one positive, one negative). This assignment is WEIRD. I kind of had fun writing my responses, though, so I'm posting them here. Hopefully my professor isn't too incredibly serious...

My Math History

The high point in my mathematical history was in fifth grade (is it bad that I piqued in fifth grade?). Anyway, my school participated in "Math Olympics." I won the Math Olympics competition in my class, so then I got to go compete against other mathematically advanced students in Michigan. At that competition, I won first place! HOORAY! I was incredibly proud of myself and how I represented my school, and I felt very intelligent. I still have my trophy...don't judge.

My math low was in high school. I attended KAMSC (Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center), a magnet school for students gifted in math and science. My senior year, I was in a Calculus class and - for the first time in my life - was entirely confused by the mathematical concepts. I could go ahead and blame the teacher, but I feel that it would be more realistic to blame my infatuation and constant flirtation with the guy who sat next to me. Whatever the reason, I did not understand the concepts. My friend Sara helped me in Calculus whenever I needed it, and I could usually scrape together enough comprehension to do decently well on the tests. My grade wasn't awful, but I did not feel that I grasped the material. I hated the feeling of inadequacy and stupidity, so this was my math low.

I would say that my math turning point would be in college when I decided to begin a math minor. After my twelfth grade Calculus shenanigans, I had decided that I wasn't good at math. After scoring very well on the math placement entrance exam at MSU, I had the opportunity to never take a math class again. I was very excited about this. After a while, though, I really started to miss math. I liked the challenge of the problems and the logic of how everything works together so neatly. Before, elementary/middle school math had been something that I was good at, in high school math was something I had to get through, but in college I saw math as something I actually enjoyed. This was a weird revelation for me. Given the choice to never take math again, I didn't take it! That still boggles my mind sometimes, but in general I am very glad that I decided to do a math minor.

Math scene #1: When I was five, my dad tried to teach me multiplication with Hershey's kisses on my great-grandmother's coffee table. It was largely unsuccessful. I mean, I was FIVE! When that failed, he tried to teach me percentages which was, again, unsuccessful. If I didn't understand multiplication, I'm not sure how he expected me to understand percentages. Anyway, I was frustrated by this exchange, but I was more intrigued because this opened my eyes to exactly how much I didn't understand about the world. I decided that I wanted to learn all of these crazy mathematical conepts, and that when I was older I would understand EVERYTHING.

Math Scene #2: It was kind of cool to come full circle and teach a class that I once took. I teach math and science camps for children in the summer, and I attended those camps as a young student (um, can we say "NERD"??). Anyway, my first year as a teacher there was four years ago, and I taught the class "Teddy Bear Math," which I attended as a kindergartener. It was a cool feeling.

Single Greatest Challenge: In a word, CALCULUS. I have already explained about my Caluculus problems in twelfth grade. I took Calculus I again in college, and I worked my butt off. I practically moved in to the MLC and to the professor's office hours, and I came out with a 4.0. YAY! I tried to take Calc II online, though, and that epically failed. I mean, math online? This is just a bad choice. I should have seen that coming. Therefore I still need to take Calc II, and I'm very nervous about it.

Positive Math Future: Assuming I finish my math minor, a positive math future would be one in which I can teach students math concepts and get excited about the logic and preciseness of the subject. I did not find a love of math until college, and I believe that it would have been very useful to achieve that mindset earlier in life. In a positive math future, I would be able to do this.

Possible extension of this future: Maybe I will be able to inspire one of my students to love math, and they will become very skilled in it. They will work outside of school to persue math concepts beyond what we are learning in class. Because they are so good at math, they will excell in Physics in high school. Because they are good at Physics, they will major it in college. Then, because they are so good, they will get lots of grant money for research, and they will make some huge breakthrough. They will win a Nobel Prize and start their acceptance speech with, "Well, I owe it all to this one teacher..."

Negative Math Future: I am one class away from finishing my math minor (that pesky Calc II), and in a negative math future I would not finish that minor. I would go on to never use the math minor that I worked my butt off to achieve, and I would feel a large sense of regret over the loss of tuition money and effort put into it.

Possible Extension of this future: Perhaps, because I feel such a sense of guilt and inadequacy, I will quit the field of Education altogether. Because the economy right now is just booming...yeah, right...I won't find another job. Because I have no job, I will lose my house and become a hobo living on the streets of Chicago (why Chicago? Not sure. Sounds like a good place for hobos). I won't be a very experienced hobo, though, so food will be scarce and the other hobos will almost certainly pick on me. I'll probably die in some sewer and be left to be eaten by rats, but my last words will be, "If only I had finished that math minor..."