A Numbers Journey

Sep 18, 2017 | Wurzbach

A Numbers Journey

By: Kelly Koch

Growing up, I did not love numbers. Math was not my “thing.” To this day, I am a lover of words and reading. Around 4th grade, I remember math starting to give me trouble. The ideas and processes did not click in my brain. Rather than annoy or disappoint anyone offering help, I eventually pretended to understand. I did this for a long time. No one suspected how confusing I found math or how little I really understood it. Parroting back an idea is easy enough. You don’t necessarily have to understand what you are being taught and guessing the answers, without truly understanding how to get the answer, became second nature. I still remember how it felt to not understand the concepts. 

                In high school, my parents enrolled me in a new, small private school. The private school gave me an entrance exam. I was terrified to take the test. I was worried that when I took the test, everyone would know my secret. I didn’t ace the test but also did not fail it. They knew math was not my strong subject but they did not know how little I understood it. In my two years at that school, I did begin to understand some of the concepts. Upon graduating, the college I attended offered two math classes. One was an easier math. It reviewed basic concepts of early math.

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               I ended up transferring to a different college after one semester. Once again, I had to take an exam. They had a rating for the math section of the exam. If you did poorly, you had to take a math review class. Depending on how badly you did, you had to take several classes. I missed passing the math section by two questions. I had to take the more advanced of the review classes. Part way through this review class, the math just clicked. I finally understood all the concepts that people had attempted to teach me years before. Perhaps if I had been brave enough to let them know that I did not understand at a younger age, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and my parents some money.

                The last math I took in college was Algebra with Business Calculus. It was a difficult class and the professor said a majority of the 200+ class was failing. Those who sat next to me and saw that I was doing well asked me how I could understand the concepts. I tried to explain the concepts. Now I could see all the connections in my head and I was able to skip steps, the same way as those I had marveled at when I was younger. The students around me were now in the same position that I had been in.

                When math is not your strong suit, it can be a very difficult concept to grasp. To this day, I know that I will never grasp math in the same way my younger brother does. Math is something I have to work at in order to do well. I must remind myself of concepts if I have not worked with them in a while. However, I believe that math is essential in this life. At some point, you will need math skills to succeed in a business environment. There is no way around it but to learn math. My chosen career involved mostly research, typing and English skills. When I began working over a decade ago, I had no clue how much math I would end up using. For projects, I had to summarize information and can break down numbers into very small fractions and decimal interests. Although it was not my favorite part of the job, I am grateful that I finally possess the ability to work such numbers.

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  Classes are crowded and teachers are overworked. Having worked as a substitute teacher and having observed classes, it is not possible for the teachers to help each student. They do not have enough hours in a day or enough of themselves to go around.  As much as they want for each of their students to thrive and be successful, some students are going to have trouble. Looking around those rooms, I am certain that some of those kids feel the same way I did about math. The same trouble connecting the concepts in my brain certainly exists in other children’s minds. Teachers have a limited time to work on each subject and in that small amount of time (perhaps 45 minutes a day), they must help around 20 students understand the concept they are teaching. From my own experience, I would say that repetition is the key to success for those that do not love math.  Mathnasium is the perfect opportunity to make sure each child learns and succeeds in math. For me, it took two college math review classes before everything finally clicked. Had I been in a Mathnasium type program when I was a younger, it could have saved myself a lot of angst.              

The article is copyright protected by Kelly Koch. Mathnasium of San Antonio has permission to use this article.

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