My relationship with Math has been a Mr Darcy/Elizabeth
Bennett sort of affair. At first meeting, Math and I did
not get on. I considered the subject difficult and self
serving. It was the purview of the already in the know.
It was language you were born to, and if it didn’t
come quickly or easily to you, it must be due to a
deficit of character.
My dyslexia made sure that my first impression of Math
was particularly poor. Beyond writing “2”, “4”, and “5”
backward, I’d read mathematical equations in reverse
as well. Subtraction and division with its directional
dependency were my particular nemesis. Time and
coping techniques helped to reframe the dyslexia into
a hindrance, but not a barrier, but Mathematics itself
remained an aloof foe. In a Mr Darcy fancy, it did not
ask me to dance, and scorned my attempts at
deciphering its character. Math's good graces lost,
are lost forever, or so it seems.
But then, as grade school gave way to high school,
we began to see each other in different light. We realized
that we would always have friends in common, and that,
perhaps, we could casually co-habitate the same social
circles. Science required Math. A trip to the store
required Math. Geometry was my Pemberly, my first
inkling that Math could be a good companion. Geometry
was elegant, and so well turned out with logic I could grasp,
I could feel myself being drawn to an entity I had sworn to
College was my chance to begin again, with a fresh
perspective. I began at the beginning, with pre-algebra,
and slowly made way through the introduction of
Mathematical social graces. This time, I could see Math,
not as aloof, but as complex and multidimensional.
I slowly discovered that aspects of Math could be seen
from different perspectives. If something appeared,
at first meeting, to be obtuse, I could find a different,
more amiable direction. It was my viewpoint that made
the entity seem forbidding; I had to find a perspective
that worked for me.
Which is how I find myself currently smitten with Math.
We are in a confirmed relationship of mutual
understanding. As my older daughter makes her way
through the introductions of high school Algebra, I am
continually impressed by the elegance of my old foe.
The new methods of teaching and working through
algebra help tremendously, but I think the willingness
to stop and look from a new direction plays an even
greater role. I am no longer intimidated by the subject.
I am not afraid to be wrong, and I am confident that it
will eventually make itself clear to me.
This is how I found myself as a math tutor. I understand
where my students are coming from. I have been there.
I know what it is to be outside of that magic society of
people who “Get It”. I remember the frustration and
the fear of not understanding. I know how deceitful
and proud those numbers can seem, and that often,
you just need a new way to think about them.