In a few months, I am beginning my liberal arts education. According to Merriam-Webster, a liberal arts education consists of “college or university studies (as language, philosophy, literature, abstract science) intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities (as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocational skills”. In other words, there is no emphasis on math. In fact, all ten schools I applied to this past fall are liberal arts colleges and only require one math class, if any.
Thus, it is safe to say I’m not a math person. I always took the “easier” math classes so I could commit to more difficult courses in the humanities. This worked well considering I never actually had any problems in math until this past year. In fact, I enjoyed my first three years of high school math.
My success in these first years of high school math can be accredited to my middle school teachers. My seventh and eighth experiences provided a solid foundation for my high school years. At the time, I did not appreciate my math teacher’s toughness. In retrospect, his strict policies and constant reinforcement of material truly helped me understand Algebra I. With this strong background in math Geometry and Algebra II were a breeze my freshman and sophomore years.
However, as a junior and senior year I opted to take the “statistics route” over its calculus counterpart. I had been told statistics was not a conventional math course, so I thought I’d give it a try. After hours of tutoring and hundreds of dollars spent I only have an elementary understanding of the subject. My teacher had an actual interest in statistics, but lacked the ability to teach the subject. Instead, he let the book “instruct” the class. He failed to use any supplementary material to enhance our learning experience or connect the class to any previous courses. At the end of the year, I had gained very little knowledge and a great abhorrence of math.
After a little investigating, I found I was not the only statistics student with this problem. However, the same could not be said of calculus students. Even though the course was equally challenging, by the end of the year kids felt accomplished. They were able to use concepts learned in previous years to solve complex problems. The importance of early math classes such as algebra and geometry was apparent. All their hard work had finally paid off.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same myself. However, in the fall I will need to fulfill my only mathematics requirement. I can only hope this will be a better experience and as satisfying as calculus was for my peers.
Rachel L. graduated from high school this spring.
6 thoughts on “Math Through the Years”
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