My oldest daughter is a high school senior, and I’ve found that when my kids go through any stage, it brings me back to when I went through it myself.
Here’s a photo of me in my senior year pre-calculus class, in the 1980s. First, of course, we notice the hair and glasses. Oh, my. We never believe it when others tell us that, no matter how ‘cool’ we think we look at the time, 20 years or so later we’ll cringe. It’s true. I remember that sweater I’m wearing — I loved it. The floral embroidery around the front — ahhhh. I wore that a lot, with my trusty green polyester pants.
So there I am, studying my math diligently, although I appear to have noticed the yearbook photographer who stopped by. My friend Cheryl is behind me — I’m happy to say we’re friends to this day.
Math is a popular subject to hate, but I never did. Our teacher, Mr. Stickles, was a kind and matter-of-fact man. I remember him saying most days, “First, I’ll prove this to you (referring to the math concept we were learning), and then I’ll show you how to do it.”
Every time, I would think, You don’t have to prove it to me. Really. I have enough faith that whatever you’re showing us is true. I never understand the proofs anyway, so can we please just get on to the actual algorithm? PLEASE?
Of course, being the total teacher-pleaser, I never actually said that.
One day, Mr. Stickles stopped me on my way out of class. He asked if I might like math as a college major, and as a career. This was in the days before all the emphasis on encouraging girls in math/science, so his suggestion kind of shocked me.
I told him that I didn’t think so — I had observed how many of the kids in class loved math, and approached tricky problems with glee, almost like solving them would be a type of treasure hunt. While I did struggle my way dutifully through each one, I didn’t feel that same love of the subject.
True to his steady manner, Mr. Stickles smiled . “Well,” he said, “someday you might just decide that you like numbers.” And with that, he turned and erased the chalkboard.
I did go on to take college calculus as a freshman, and felt that Mr. Stickles had taught us well — I remember thinking the class seemed to cover the same things I’d learned senior year. That was my pinnacle in math, however — my eventual major required a much easier math class, which I (with a bit of humiliation) ended up taking as a sophomore.
How about you? Any math memories?