I used to think I hated math. In addition to the fact that the media tells us as children that we should hate math (and My Brain was very interested in what people told it that it should do), I had an experience in grade four which suggested to me that math was stupid and pointless and a waste of my time.
Near the beginning of grade four I encountered this math problem:
Using the whole numbers 2, 3, and 5, and the symbols +, -, and = create as many equations as you can.
And gave these answers:
And this is what the teacher handed back:
Not only did she mark two correct answers as incorrect, she actually deducted marks for them! When I asked her why she had marked them wrong, she said this:
Really? I wasn’t supposed to know about negative numbers yet? Because I’d been taught to read a thermometer and to read the weather forecast in the newspaper at the Montessori School I attended when I was four years old — and when you live in London Ontario (that’s in Canada) weather forecasts and thermometers involve negative numbers for at least five to six months of the year. Bringing this to her attention got me in trouble for “talking back”.
Subsequent to the incident above, I repeatedly encountered another scenario. I have always been extremely bad at memorizing mathematical formulae (I learned long after I was finished with high school math that I have dyscalculia, which is a kind of dyslexia that relates to numbers) but if I understand why a formula works then I have a better chance of remembering it because it’s always easier to remember things that make sense. So I would ask how the formulae worked, and get some version of this answer:
In retrospect I understand that I was dealing with teachers who didn’t know their subject area well enough to teach it effectively; but at the time I blamed math itself, and pretty much wrote it off as stupid, and as not applicable to my life.
After all, I was going to grow up and be a professor of English Literature. It wasn’t like I’d ever need math again once I’d earned the grade ten credit I needed to graduate high school.
(To be Continued . . .)