When I was a middle school student, I didn’t like math! My mom loves to tell the story about getting a phone call from my seventh grade math teacher: “Did you know that your daughter isn’t doing her homework? Did you know she is getting a D in math class?” I didn’t like my math class or my teacher; I thought she was strict and boring. I wanted to write notes to my friends and make plans to hang out with them after school, not pay attention in a boring class.
This story ends well though. I started doing my math homework and my grade improved. And then a strange thing happened – I began paying attention in class in order to understand the math concepts so I could raise my grade and my attitude changed from disinterest to a focus on learning. I was focused on what the teacher was doing, and that’s when I noticed it: Math is puzzle and pattern solving! I could turn it into a game and challenge myself to find the patterns and relationships from one math idea to another. And then math class became fun!
How do you go from failing math class to going to college for a career in math? Here is how:
1. BE in class! I’m not talking about attendance; what I mean is to be involved in what is happening in class. One of the phrases that I say the most in class is “You have to DO the math, to LEARN the math!” You can’t do it if you are daydreaming or working on something else.
2. LOOK for patterns! There are patterns and repetition in math. Seeing the connections between different math ideas will help you understand new math concepts quicker and on a deeper level.
3. PRACTICE new skills! Professional athletes didn’t get great by watching others play their sport. They got great because they devoted time to practicing until they were amazing at it!