When I Began To Enjoy Math
Ashley (she/her/hers), 22, New York
“Math always came easily to me, but it wasn’t until 8th grade that I actually started to enjoy it.
My 8th grade math curriculum was different than anything I’d done before. My classroom utilized Judo Math, a method that allowed students to work at their own pace.
Like the martial arts practice, students earned belts (bracelets) as we mastered different aspects of the curriculum. We progressed through the belts at our own pace — with the requirement you had to achieve three black belts (one per each trimester of curriculum) by the end of the year (with the additional challenge option of completing the extra credit curriculum to earn the highest level: the green belt).
Judo Math appealed to my competitive side as my friends and I challenged each other to be the first of the friend group to earn our belts. This made math class a game — we were more engaged with the content and excited every time someone mastered the curriculum and moved ahead.
But it was the relationship aspect of Judo Math that made me begin to enjoy my studies. There was a rule in Judo Math that you couldn’t be more than two belts ahead of any other person in the class. Because of this, I often found myself helping other students to learn curriculum and progress through the program. I saw the power that math had to bring me closer to my peers, and relate to people with backgrounds far different from my own. I found very quickly that the students I mentored and I expressed the same excitement when we mastered difficult concepts. Math was a common language across cultures and experiences, and because of this, began to appeal more to my interests.
I love creating relationships, learning about other cultures, and solving problems. Math, I learned that year, was the beautiful bridge between all three.”