Archives for the month of: June, 2012

“There are no coincidences in math.” -A 12-year-old student, reacting to an exercise from James Tanton’s “Guide to Everything Fractions

This is deep, right? I mean, are there? Or aren’t there?

Problem 132. Write an essay describing what, if anything, you have learned from this course that will have a lasting impression on you (from Ted Mahavier’s trigonometry course).

[Three out of fifty students chose to respond to this problem. I wanted to share one of the responses, reprinted with permission below. -DG]

Struggles, Overcoming, Achieving

Completing this class has been a rollercoaster ride starting in September of 2011. I entered this class without any confidence in myself, in a way doubting that I would succeed, sad but true. I was extremely impatient, lost motivation quickly, and when I needed help, I just gave up. Just reading the word “pre-calculus” and seeing it printed on my schedule was quite intimidating. Not knowing what I was walking into was nerve-wracking. I had no idea of what it was.

In the beginning, this class was a tremendous struggle for me. Colleges paid very close attention to the first two semeseters of a student’s senior year. So I was trying my utmost to achieve nothing but good grades. The way class worked was completely conflicting with the type of learner I was. We had to solve problems practically on our own, PRESENT them to the entire class, and write them up as papers. Woah, well first off I am a very shy person, not only that but I am a visual learner, I learn best when the class lessons include lots of note taking, examples, pictures, etc. None of these were involved in the way this Pre-Calculus class was taught. I rarely ever reached the point of presenting, never mind writing up papers. Presentations were more difficult for me than people understand. It was a real personal issue, I had trouble overcoming. Let’s just say I wasn’t happy to be in this class.

I was getting tired of watching my peers constantly present and write up new problems, they just made it seem so easy. Then there was me, always struggling to simply figure out and solve one problem at a time. I think this is what sparked my interest to do better, and become more motivated in this class. See, the thing wth Dr. Goldner is that he likes for you to figure things out on your own, he wants you to think, and work hard for your answer/solution. I hated this. But I wanted to do better, I wanted to succeed. So I began working with mathematical puzzles, in the infamous black book. These had many pictures, diagrams, tools that were used to solve them, so they seemed quite easier to me. It took me three weeks to present my very first puzzle, but at least it was a start. Success with these puzzles led me to wander off to the orange book of straight math problems. When I was stuck and needed help, I was already hesitant to ask the teacher. So when I built up enough courage, and pushed my pride aside to ask for help, it was quite the inner conflict for me as Dr. Goldner refused to help me any further than explaining what was asked in a problem. Ultimately, his strategy forced me to work strenuously and diligently on my own. I accomplished more than I thought I would, and learned how to have patience when working with new things, how to be persistent and never give up on something I want, along with not letting my pride hold me back from things like asking for help.

In the end, everyone’s experience is different, and mine was a struggle before I finally became successful in my class. However, through it all I gained a lot of new skills. I learned how to have patience, to have persistence, and to ask for help when I need it. All these skills will be beneficial to me in the future and I am glad and proud of myself that I will depart from this exceptionally greater than the person I was when I entered.

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