Friday, September 11, 2009

My Math Life Story

I would love to tell you that I am and always have been in love with mathematics; however, I cannot lie. My love for math began to take a turn for the worst in 7th Grade…up until middle school, I loved math! My teachers made us learn using multiple ways to solve problems; this truly allowed me to find my own way of learning and I feel that all teachers should do this. I learned with manipulatives, addition/subtraction sentences, my hands, calculators (in high school), songs, and games. When I was in elementary school, my second grade teacher pulled my parents aside and told them to pull me out of my school and to put me in a Montessori school. At Bill J. Elliott Elementary School we only learned by doing worksheets; my teacher felt that this wasn’t the place for me. She, Mrs. Weigel, didn’t feel like I was being challenged enough. So, my parents began the enrollment process for me to attend Daggett Montessori School.

I remember doing many things there and I loved them all! I was able to learn kinesthetically and I excelled at it. I learned multiplication and division in the second half of 2nd grade and in 3rd grade also. We held math competitions between the classes, learned dances and songs for different mathematical properties and rules. I truly enjoyed it all! We even learned probability by gambling; it was amazing.

When I entered middle school, I looked forward to taking different math classes…however, I got stuck in a rut: worksheets and bookwork. Suddenly, the fun was sucked right out of my math work. Sure, math was always a struggle, but in elementary school, it was a struggle I enjoyed overcoming. In middle school, it became drudgery. Night after night, monotonous skill and drill sheets were assigned to us for homework and each night, I remember complaining to my parents.

Then, I started 7th grade…it was a miserable year for me. My math teacher, Mr. Newman, was both my teacher and my basketball coach. I loved basketball, but I don’t think Mr. Newman liked me very much. I cannot remember what we were learning at the time, but I was having difficulty with it and so I remember walking up to his desk and asking him for help. Rather than him trying to help me, he told me to go ask the people I sat with; the problem being that nobody else knew what to do either. Mr. Newman would rather play cards or shoot hoops with some of the boys in our class rather than correctly educate us. Quite frankly, this frustrated me. My parents noticed a change in me that year; I didn’t come home excited to pull out my math homework, because no matter how hard I worked, I would end up crying because I couldn’t understand it. I would shut down in class and I ended up not liking Mr. Newman at all, and one day, I let him know how I felt. I was fed up with him flirting with the girls in our class that would wear low cut shirts and giving them good grades. After that, I did not do well in math. He let it be known to me that he controlled my grades. He even showed me that he controlled my playing time on the basketball court.

After middle school, I was glad to be in high school where I feel like I learned much more than I had in the past two years. I took geometry and algebra 2, and finally calculus. It wasn’t a painless 3 years of high school math, but I did learn a lot; however, the majority of it came from the teacher teaching only one way to find an answer, and there I did struggle some.

When I came to college, I realized that I had to take some more math classes, but I actually did enjoy them. I now look forward to having my own classroom and teaching them how to add and subtract, allowing them to use whatever method works for them. I think that is what I learned and valued the most: using your own method to find an answer leaves room for growth and exploration. Everyone needs that.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you had some great experiences in Montessori school! Besides encouraging students to use their own methods to solve problems, what are other practices that your teachers there used that you could use in public schools to help students? What kinds of things would you do differently?

    I'm sorry about your experience with Mr. Newman. That's no good at all :( I'm glad you made it through that!