AS a young girl, I loved math. I was good in math as were all of my family members. It wasn’t seen as something masculine or even special. It was just a characteristic of our family. I did well in math until high school. I took all of the math classes and got high grades in them, but the math called for in Physics was too much for me. I couldn’t figure out which formula to use in which situation. Did I mention I was the only girl in my Physics class? That was the end of my science classes. In college, I took Calculus, but got sick and missed three weeks of classes. My A dropped to a C, and I was placed into Analytical Geometry. Since my weakest skills are in visual-spatial orientation, I only got a C and changed my major to German. Most of my life, I have regretted that decision. Luckily for me, I have had the opportunity to tutor some students in math and I rediscovered my love for it.
Two of my children have inherited the math gene and were placed two years above grade level, thanks to an encouraging gifted program in my area. They have since gone into computer programming and management and are able to make good incomes. My daughter has been less achieving in math, and I have to wonder how much of that is due to the influence of society. When the boys were taking off with algebra and geometry, she was practicing Britni Spears’ “I’m a Slave for You.” No matter how hard I tried to encourage her in math and science, the lure of the stage was much stronger. Gifted girls have a much more difficult time navigating math and science than boys.
What is it that I love about math? It is the idea that math is really just another language for describing what’s going on around us. Children learn to love math when adults love it. If I never hear another teacher say, “I’m not very good at math,” I will have done my job. Teachers, if you’re not very good at it – take a course in it!!!!!
I only have three resources for you, but I love them. The first is the author Theoni Pappas. She has created calendars and over twenty books with math challenges in them, anything by Christopher Freeman, and Math Games played with Cards and Dice, by William Gaslin, Charles, Lund, and Maring M. Gaslin.
I recently wrote this poem that gives a glimpse of the joy of math.
In Praise of Math
Praise the vigesimal Mayan numerals, used for thousands of years by their complex civilization.
Praise binary code, which created out of nothing a vast system of communication, an industry of chips and processors, and a social movement to include everyone.
Praise honey bees, who wax together hexagons in rhombic sections to store honey, and dance the location of nectar, water and pollen.
Praise Pythagorus, who discovered the relationship of ratios between notes and the vibrations of strings, and the parabola focus of directed sound waves.
Praise x- and y-intercepts that show us the increase or decrease in a child’s reading fluency or emigration from a war zone.
Praise Alan Turing, whose Bome helped break the Enigma codes of the Nazis.
Praise farmers, who calculate ratios of soy to corn in feed and percentage of moisture in crops still in the field, as well as estimating quantities of seed to plant.
Praise elliptic geometry, where pseudosphere parallel lines intersect.
Praise algorithms that control traffic flow, track our spending and analyze it, and recognize damaging weather conditions.
Praise symmetry of butterflies, Fibonacci sequence of sunflowers and fractals of a snowflake.
Praise acoustic ceiling tiles with many holes for giving children something to count during unchallenging math lessons.