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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mathography III

Third in a series of mathographies from my students:

I don't remember school nearly as well as most people seem to. I suppose I was too absorbed by my own insecurities and all of the horrors that come with wearing glasses and braces and having frizzy hair. I really didn't place academics near the top of my priority list, and therefore, I don't have many academic memories.

My first memorable math-related experience happened in 9th grade. I was taking Algebra II that year, and I was all set to be in the class of one of the best teachers in the school. Unfortunately, she greeted us only to let us know that she would be taking maternity leave that year, and that we would have a replacement. Our replacement teacher, Mr. Triolo, was dorky, boring, and lacked confidence. This seemed to me, to be an invitation to misbehave and shirk my responsibilities. I did not have enough maturity to realize that I was causing the problem, as my grade slipped further and further. I ended up failing the class and going to summer school to make up the credit.

In 11th grade, Mr. Stackhouse became my favorite teacher of all time. He taught me Algebra III/ Trigonometry and inspired me to teach. I still haven't gone back to tell him what an inspiration he was, but I really should. That summer, I decided to get very serious about academics and getting into college for studies in the hard sciences. Therefore, I went to a summer program for high school students held at a polytechnic college called Renssalear Polytechnic Institute. I took Calculus that summer even though I hadn't taken Pre-Calculus. I struggled, but I believe that it strengthened my transcript. I then took Calculus in my senior year of high school.

I went on to major in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland, where I needed to be able to use my math training in almost all of my classes without prompting. Therefore, my foundation was often tested, and I learned to love to reach into my "tool bag" for the most appropriate problem solving tool.

While I loved pursuing my degree, and found it so interesting, I didn't really think I would love the realities of working as an engineer. Therefore, I turned to teaching, since I had been attracted to this profession since childhood. For the last 6 years, I have been teaching Pre-Calculus and Calculus. I try to continue learning every day and to help my students enjoy grappling with problem solving as much as I do.

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