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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Each year in my university classes as well as my middle school classes I have my students write an autobiographical essay about their experiences in math education. I leave the assignment open ended to see what people choose to write about. For the most part, people choose negative experiences, but often try to balance them out with something positive. I will be posting these essays (without the authors' names) to give you a flavor of what they are talking about.

I am the youngest of nine children. This meant that I got 1/9th of the attention I wanted from my parents, if I was lucky. The household was a chaotic free-for-all. No one ever checked that homework was done and there was no emphasis on academics. My parents divorced when I was in 3rd grade. I started a new school in the second half of the fourth grade.

My earliest math memory happened at the new elementary school. They were well into long division and I had just started it. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Stadler, stood me in front of the class and told everyone that I didn’t have the mathematic comprehension that they had accumulated and that I would need their help to catch up. I remember feeling humiliated and scared. Rhonda, Brenda and Carlos gathered around me on the playground at recess. I was sure they were going to berate me, but to my surprise, with a long stick serving as a pencil and gravel-covered dirt as paper, for around a week, they took turns demonstrating and explaining long division during recess. That was probably the nicest memory I have about math.

Even after my parent’s divorce, problems at home were plentiful and I ended up missing around half of 5th grade, but was still able to get an A in math. 6th, 7th, and most of 8th I had Mrs. Cant for math. C,C-, D. Something must have happened to her because the teacher’s name appears as Miller on my final 8th grade report card and I got a B+. 9th grade Algebra D-, then Fundamentals of Geometry in 10th for an A. Geometry seemed to make more sense to me than Algerbra. Maybe because I am a visual artist and could visualize the problems? 11th grade was an easy A in Probability and Statistics with Mr. Arce, who was the most enthusiastic teacher I had ever experienced. Finally, in Trigonometry I received an A- because I sat next to Tracy Mitchell.

Focusing during puberty was really hard for me. Who am I kidding, it still is difficult for me, but I have always felt that while math is challenging, it is a tangible subject. I ended up taking Statistical Applications for Behavioral Science for my quantitative Reasoning units in college. The material was dense and difficult, but the professor was funny. She made the material exciting, and I aced the class. Looking back, I’d say the math classes I did the best in were with teachers who I enjoyed.

As I enter the field of education, I do so looking for a more stable career path. My first preference would be to teach 2nd or 3rd grade, next would be to teach art. I am taking these classes because I know that there is a shortage of math and science teachers and I feel it will help make me more marketable in the workplace. I feel like I have a knack for teaching and making learning fun. The way I see it, I think if I can learn to make math an interesting and feasible task for middle-schoolers, I would be giving the kids a gift. Unlike Mrs. Cant, I would help them see that they could

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