I Love Math!

Anna Blakeslee

I haven’t always loved math.  In fact math and I have had an unexciting relationship for most of my life.  In Elementary school I was really good at memorizing and I loved mad minutes.  Mad minutes was math for me, and my success depended on completing in one minute, and maybe getting a gumball or a star on a chart.  This is what I remember of math.  I have one other memory of math in Elementary School and we were doing something with unit cubes in 6th grade, and we were being videoed, probably for our poor teachers masters program.  All I remember is seeing in the video one student waiting until the teacher walked away and throwing a handful of unit cubes in the face of another student, not realizing that the video caught it all.  Through Elementary school I never found math challenging.  In middle school I remember liking pre-algebra, but it is very vague.  Math classes do not stand out like the others in my memories of Middle School.  In high school I remember three classes, and out of the three, I recall doing math in one.  Mostly because my good friend, who was really good at math, sat behind me, and maybe I had a mini crush on him, but mostly we were allowed to work together and could be social and it made me feel successful.  The other math classes we went to Elitches Garden for Trig; I am sure that had something to do with math, and in the other class, sleeping as the teacher blabbed on about something or other. In college our relationship ended for awhile.  I got my first D ever in a college math class, and hence moved forward with a Bachelors in Social Science, breaking up with math.  I avoided math at all costs except for the classes I had to take to become a teacher, and it was not until I took those classes that math actually made sense to me.  One professor taught about why we use a base ten system, and every activity was around why we do math. The other Professor in my Masters Program taught us games and we had fun with math.  

As a teacher I went back to what I knew how to do and what I was comfortable with.  I taught to the book,  went through algorithms, and I did mad minutes because they were so fun...right?!   However two years ago Math and I started a new relationship and now I am in love!  Like any good relationship it was all about communication, diving in deep, really getting to know every detail, and having fun.  It started with a grant through NW BOCES called SUMMIT. My colleagues in the grant were already in love with math so with their help, I began to appreciate all things math.  Like any good practice, it tooks some time, observation, and a lot of work for me to transition into how I feel today.  I had a hard time getting away from what I was comfortable with, like speed and memorization.  But I found my way.  It even got so nerdy that I invited Math into my happy hour space.  My fellow math coach partner and I met with Dr. Ryan Derby Talbot, did problems, and talked all about math.  I have known Ryan my entire life and knew he was a brilliant mathematician and professor, but we had never indulged in math talk before.  Exhilarating!!  My life also opened up to Jo Boaler and her youcubed site, Dan Meyer’s Blog, and many  places to find meaningful math tasks that opened the door to creativity. Many more of these types of ideas and philosophies can be found in the SUMMIT resources.  Through this transition I have become committed to what Math can be and should be.  Like Paul Lockhart says, “...math is- wondering, playing, amusing yourself with your imagination”.  It is an ongoing learning experience that I have accepted in my life and am excited to see how it continues to evolve.