Math always came to me quite easily in grade school and middle school. I just never was able to find a way to actually motivate myself to learn it most of the time. The majority of the teachers I had over the years had us read straight from the textbook and copy down problems at the end of the section. I found it extremely easy and boring, so I wouldn’t put much effort into doing any extra work. I went through middle school with mediocre math grades. Pre Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 1… all boring for me. One would think that if the subject was so easy for me, I would get good grades… apparently not.
In tenth grade, I transferred to a new school where I took Algebra 2. I continued my trend of not trying because of boredom. My grades weren’t stellar, which wasn’t promising for a new transfer student. After a few weeks, the teacher decided the class was too hard for me and dropped me down to a lower Algebra 2 class. My grades continued to be only average for the rest of the year.
Finally I found the answer to my problem. In my eleventh grade Trigonometry and Functions class, we would get a sheet of problems near the end of class. This sheet mostly covered the material we learned that day. If we finished all the problems correctly before the class time was over, we would be able to leave early. I would almost always finish my problems, have the teacher check the answers, and be out of the class way before the rest of the students. After a few times, the teacher became aware of this pattern and realized that with the right motivation, I could start getting better results. One day after class, the teacher handed me the textbook for the next level of math. He made a deal with me that I could study from that textbook and take separate tests from the rest of the class. If I was happy with my grades, I would continue to work that way and would be bumped up to a higher math my senior year. If I wasn’t happy with my grades, he would scratch all the scores and I would continue with the math that the rest of the class was learning. Suddenly, math became a lot more interesting for me and my grades did indeed rise. The next year I was bumped up to Statistics and Discrete Math. It turns out that all I needed was a bit of a challenge!
Tasha graduated last year from Cornell University where she majored in studio art.
1 thought on “Math Class: Student Perspective 2”
How sad that Tasha didn’t receive a challenge until her senior year in high school. Unfortunately, there are thousands more like her all over the country. Statistics and Discrete Math is a very difficult course, and for her to have done well, a solid understanding of mathematics concepts was necessary. She admitted that she could finish her homework quickly demonstrating that she had excellent math skills, but because she thought the work was boring, she completed it quickly, which often times results in careless mistakes. (hence a “B” instead of an “A.”) Thanks for sharing her story. There are lessons to be learned because of it.
How can we make fun and challenging at the same time? We must make math relevant to each student’s life. We can do that through real-life applications instead of through so many rote drills. Math skills are needed in life when solving problems. So, I am challenging teachers to provide students more practice in problem-solving situations.