Is it Too Late?

I’ve always hated math. Really hated it. I told myself I was bad at it and so I was. (Hence my “anti-math brain” in the photo below.) I took some interesting math courses in high school (I actually sort of miss Calculus) but they were always slightly tedious and were never something I looked forward to. In my pile of homework, math always came last.

Math brain
Younger me lost in the confusion of math…

When I arrived at Quest, there was one moment of Convocation that really stood out to me. The Chief Academic Officer (and math tutor), Ryan, told a story about the beauty of math and how it changed his life. He said that many students came to Quest with a rocky mathematical history and suddenly fell in love with it after one course here. I was skeptical but also hopeful.

Last block I chose to take my required foundation math course with Richard Hoshino. In Problem Solving, we were encouraged to look at problems creatively and try many different approaches to reaching a final answer. On the first day, Richard said something that rang true to me:

“If I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done – I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soul-crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education.

[The students] say, ‘math class is stupid and boring,’ and they are right.”

Even IB, which I thought was progressive and engaging, seemed to zap the fun out of math.
Even IB, which I thought was progressive and engaging, seemed to zap the fun out of math.

For the rest of the block, Richard challenged us with complex problems, encouraging us to discover simple solutions as he exclaimed “look at how beautiful it is!”

Could it be possible to learn to love math? Is it too late in my “math career” to start to get excited?

It turns out that no, it’s not too late. Although I’m not head over heels with math yet, I actually enjoyed it. I saw where math related to everyday life, how it solved human problems of grave importance, and how it described patterns simplistically and beautifully.

My final project included creating a system (based on this tree) to calculate the likeliness of injury occurrence in athletes.
My final project included creating a system (based on this tree) to calculate the likeliness of injury occurrence in athletes.

I don’t want to say that this course changed my life (it’s too early to say) but it has definitely changed the way I approach learning. I have been reminded not to shut myself down or to cling to preconceived notions of what a subject is. And of course to remember that it’s never too late to take a different approach and find something positive in things that were previously solely negative.

The lovely people in Problem Solving that helped me find math enjoyable.
The lovely people in Problem Solving that helped me find math enjoyable.

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