Math: A Story of Love, Hate… and Love Again
Storyteller: Anonymous storyteller (she/her/hers), 18, North Carolina
“Throughout middle school and the beginning of high school, I was very confident in my math abilities. I spent four years learning in India where the math curriculum was generally harder and we engaged with difficult word problems and concepts. Additionally, we were discouraged from using calculators so I really had to conceptualize everything. I remember students coming to me to ask for help, and I was so in love with math that I readily explained problems to anyone who asked. So when I moved back to the United States, I felt like I was a step ahead of others, and my advisor even allowed me to skip a level of math.
Then, my junior year of high school, I enrolled in Calculus AB/BC where I had to learn the equivalent of two math classes in one year. I had never been scared of math until then. Most of my class consisted of freshmen but it seemed like everyone already knew the whole curriculum. I was lost and didn’t understand why the teacher was teaching completely new concepts like he expected us to know them already. We had taken a quiz within the first quiz to review what we learned in the previous math level, and I had not done so great. To make it worse, the teacher brought up a mistake I had made on the quiz and shared it with the class, and everyone laughed. I entered the class each morning full of fear. I had always been so confident in myself that I didn’t want to ask the teacher for help, so I went home everyday and watched any video I could find on youtube.
Soon, it was time for AP exams. CollegeBoard had released review videos and the two teachers who made them changed my view on calculus completely. They were engaging, funny, enthusiastic, and explained the concepts as if I was completely new to the course. I did all the problems they released and found myself falling in love with math once again. I ended up acing the exam as well.
While I took a lot of STEM classes throughout high school, none of them were as exciting to me as the STEM competitions, programs, and internships that I enrolled in outside of class. These were environments where I was not just learning concepts, but also applying them as I went. I was allowed to exercise creativity and let my imagination lead the way. These were valuable experiences in STEM that I felt were not integrated enough into the classroom setting. I wish my teachers had challenged us more with fun projects and puzzles which applied to the real world.”