Teaching Math?


 It's no secret that I am not a math person.  I have math-phobia.  I am completely serious...just asking me to add together a bunch of numbers makes me break out into a sweat.  It's not that I don't know that one plus one is two, it's just that putting it in front of me sends me into a panic.   (Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit there, but not much.)  Even the word “math” makes me feel anxious!

I have TRIED not to pass my math-phobia onto my son.  The good news is that my husband is pretty good at math.  However, there have been times when we have needed a tutor.  We have been lucky enough to find someone who is not just educated in the subject, but can work with people.  (Which is a big piece of the picture.)  She has often pointed out that when my son needs help, mostly what he needs is a boost of confidence and a reminder to double check his work.  His biggest flaw, for the most part, is making little errors.  So it's not that he doesn't understand, it's that he's not paying attention to the details.  Whenever we needed her help, she'd guide him through the process and he'd gain the confidence that he needed to do better.

Amazingly, last year he breezed through Geometry.  He did so well that I wish there was a Geometry II course that he could have taken instead of Algebra II.  (There isn't.)  I'll freely admit that I was totally freaked out about Algebra II based on MY experience (at the same high school; albeit many decades ago).  Back in the last century Algebra II was the bane of my existence.  I liked the teacher, but just never got my head wrapped around the subject.  I had a tutor.  She was a very nice lady, but she didn't help much.  If I recall correctly (and I truly do NOT want to), I got a D on my final exam and I may have even gotten a D during the final marking period.  Yes, to this day that haunts me.  I like to think of myself as a good student and a D?!?!?  OMG!  Is it any wonder after that experience that I was scarred for life?

With my son taking the subject, I've been hyper aware of his grades.  He did really poorly on one quiz back in October and I immediately emailed his teacher about it.  Was this a fluke?  Did he need a tutor?  What were the teacher's thoughts...? (Yes, I was completely overreacting.)  This teacher immediately responded and put me at ease:  "he had some struggle with that when we did the practice quiz, but asked great questions and resolved his problems during the practice quiz....so I think when he took the real quiz, he couldn't recall how he overcame his struggle on the practice quiz...we will probably have another short quiz this Friday, so I might wait one more week to see how he does on that quiz before calling in the troops."  And you know what, he was right!  For the rest of the marking period, he did relatively well and I knew that my son had a teacher that really cared about his students and getting them to understand the subject. 

More recently, I saw that my son was missing a quiz grade from December.  (This would have been right before the big Omicron outbreak.)  In place of a grade there was a note:  "See me about this quiz. I think you misunderstood the directions on the second page" This note speaks volumes to me about this teacher and is more important than any grade that he could get.  Instead of just giving my son a grade (which I'm guessing would have been pretty bad), he wanted to make sure my son understood what he was doing.  While I want my son to get good grades (who doesn't), this is more important than a number or a letter grade.  This is about learning.  This is about making sure a student understands a concept.  This is what teaching is really about. This is what education SHOULD be.

As much as I dislike math; I adore this teacher.  More importantly I admire and appreciate his commitment to the subject and his student.  If there has to be an Algebra II; I'm glad my son has a teacher like this.


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