You have heard all the gurus and motivational speakers talk about it – find your passion. For those who know me, you may have heard the story about how my love (later I discovered that love of and passion for are synonymous) of Mathematics began. For those that have not heard, pull up a chair, brew the coffee and listen up.
It was 1981 and I was in Grade 4 at a local private school in The Bahamas. I assumed it was going to be another year like the past several with assignments, crazy classmates, stickers, playtime and snacks. Perhaps I would have another American teacher, or maybe this year it would be a different nationality. Private schools had teachers from all around the world.
To my surprise, I got a Bahamian female teacher who, from the start, showed us her both fun and fierce sides. This continued during the year. However, along with that came what seemed to be more time spent on Mathematics than any other subject we had.
“Didn’t we have Math this morning, miss?”
“Yes, but we are having it again,” would come the reply.
And on it went.
But after a while, having Math so often became interesting, fun, different, enjoyable. little pop quizzes, teaching each other in groups how to do different computations, speed drills – was this really the Math that everyone seemed to hate? I loved it.
I was on a roll and on cloud nine for months. Each assignment was an ‘A’. Each test – an ‘A’. Each piece of homework, worksheet, activity – A, A, A. Most times it was 100%. If not, it was the high 90’s.
However, this winning streak would soon end. It was a Thursday and it was time for Subtraction with regrouping. I knew how to do this. No problem. We were shown what to do, and given 10 problems. And so I worked away, crossing off zeroes and placing a ‘1’ in the next column and taking one from the number beside it. This was another A.
Math Anxiety Starts
When we switched papers and checked them together, I got 40%. This was impossible! When I realized what had happened, I had incorrectly crossed off certain numbers and forgot to write the correct number when I borrowed. I was devastated. Not only did I get an F, I actually didn’t know how to subtract with regrouping. How would I face another day. I was the ‘A’ Math student. (you see what children do to themselves)
I remained behind afterwards and went to my teacher with a total look of depression and horror and sheepishly asked for help. To my surprise, instead of chastisement, I got a lesson on how to subtract with regrouping BUT in a different way that was taught during the lesson. I guess this was another strategy in differentiated learning.
The new way of subtraction was, I would find out later in my college years at The College of The Bahamas, called the ‘payback’ method. Instead of taking one away from the top number, you would ADD one to the bottom number as you went left. This was FASCINATING.
As so I learned how to do a few and I had it! To this day, that is my automatic, default way of subtracting numbers instead of the traditional method of regrouping. As a result, I got my groove back and continued to excel in Math throughout Grade 4.
As two years passed, and I entered Grade 6 – there was my Grade 4 teacher again! We would switch classes for Math so that I was taught by her yet again in Grade 6. And again all A’s.
In Grade 7 – there she was again, and in Grade 8. The building blocks had been cemented in place in order to do the BJC. For some reason I cannot fathom, I got a ‘B’ on the BJC Math that year I assumed there was some anomaly since that year there were very few ‘A’ grades that were given.
Despite it all, I think I started to find that my passion and interest in Math only escalated as I my adventure took me to the GCE topics and examination. The problems that required thinking, reasoning and problem-solving strategies with Vectors, Trigonometry and Geometric shapes became things that would continue to float around in my head as days went on. Especially, if I could not solve a problem, it would haunt me for days.
The Passion Continues
I would engage in puzzles, word games, crosswords, games like connect 4 and the list goes on. All of these, I realized later, would continue to engage the brain in continuous problem solving.
But back to the story…..I eventually sat the GCE Math exam and got…you guessed it, an ‘A’. It wasn’t an easy exam but all of my mathematical background and my teachers had trained me for that moment.
I was so inspired by my love for math that I went into teacher training at The College of the Bahamas from 1990-1994 studying Computer Data Processing and Mathematics Education. As I placed my passion and love for Math into my classroom, I realized how much of a positive impact it made on the students that I taught.
That love and energy turned into many worksheets which turned into workbooks that students now get to use to practice their math skills all throughout The Bahamas. Bahamian Mathematics Levels A, B, C prepare students for the Math BJC and Level D is the lower level topics for Math BGCSE. Level E is almost completed and should be out by summer 2021.
Along with my passion for Math was also my ability to write. Although writing most times for me is a chore, I do very well at it. I attribute this also to my high school which dedicated an ungodly amount of hours in English Language going over rules of grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary workshop levels 1-1000 and beyond. I didn’t realize it then but now I know it was all to make me a better writer.
Find Your Passion = Application
In 2015, after realizing that students in Math grapple with an understanding of Measurement, I thought about writing a story that would help younger students relate the metric units of length with something specific. As you start to find your passion, it can take the things you love and convert them into things that help others.
And so the story started. It just came out of nowhere –
“There once was a wise old king, with an obsession like no one before
He went through the land, with his ruler in hand, and would measure whatever he saw”
I said to myself – this sounds a little interesting. And so off I continued to write. By the time I had finished, I had 5 pages of a story about a King who had a meter stick to measure things but when he got to an object smaller than a meter, he didn’t know what to do.
I finally finished it in 2017 and put together a powerpoint of the story from scratch and pictures I found online, voiced it and used Movie Maker to create a little movie of the story that you can watch HERE. This has since been changed slightly but gives a good idea of the entire story concept.
In 2019, I had a graphic artist convert the story into a children’s story book which is also due to be published in 2021.
The love for Math has enabled me to use my passion and creativity to develop hundreds of worksheets, games, stories and opportunities for teachers and students throughout the country to use – maybe to discover their renewed passion for Math – who knows? We as teachers can at least provide them with the materials and opportunities to try. There is another magical in class experience that teaches students to multiply by 11 mentally HERE. Students love to use this trick with their family and friends.
So when will you find your passion and what will you allow it to do for you?