This Mathematical Revolution Shall be a Legacy for Us All

Daily Prompt: Imagine yourself at the end of your life. What sort of legacy will you leave? Describe the lasting effect you want to have on the world, after you’re gone.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/prompt-dont-foget/

Up until recently, I was in total denial of what sort of legacy I wanted to leave on the world. I, much like every other person of Indian descent, wanted to leave the legacy of being the world’s greatest cardiologist/neurosurgeon/plastic surgeon/physician. I wanted to travel around the globe and treat children in third world countries and make a lasting impact on their lives.

It took me a long time to realize this was the legacy my parents wanted me to leave on this world; not me.

I went to school to study Math Education and graduated with a concentration in teacher preparation. Of course if I as a high school-er even suggested to my parents that I wanted to be anything but a science major, it wouldn’t have gone over so well. So instead, I started out as a biochemistry major. I remember the first time I had the epiphany that I did not want to become a doctor.  I was sitting in Organic Chemistry class, working on Acid/Base chemistry when I looked to my partner and thought wow, this absolutely not what I want to do with my life, and that freaked me out more than I can explain. Pursuing a life of medicine was the only thing I knew. What was I going to do with my life?

So I ran to the one and only thing I knew I loved the most; mathematics. When I was in middle school, I remember my dad leaving for work in the mornings during my summer vacation. He would leave a ton of equations on the board and tell me I need to solve all these problems before he came back from work. I’m not going to pretend that my 12 year old self would rather factor and foil than watch Animaniacs, but through his persistence I found a love for mathematics.

Once I entered high school, I found that this was a love that few people shared with me. It took me a long time to realize why that was: because of the way math was taught. The age old question, “when would I ever use this?” is so poorly answered with “because it’s on your standardized test,” instead of taken as an opportunity to instill a passion for math and show real life applications. Instead of showing architectural applications of Geometry, students learn that they need to find the sin of an angle so they can get a 500 on their SOL. Instead of showing students how to find the velocity of the Atomic Bomb using Calculus, students learn they need to learn how to find a derivative so they can pass their AP exam. Students should learn mathematics through application, not drills, not standardized exams, and not without purpose.

This is not mathematics. This is not how it should be taught. This is not how students learn.

My mission in life is to teach mathematics the correct way. By showing students that math is all around us and intertwining math in subjects they learn already, students can gain a true understanding of what mathematics is all about. By using literature, world history, biology, students can explore the world and use mathematics as a tool. Instead of drilling, I want my students to learn math through application.

But it doesn’t stop there. The way teachers teach math to their students is not entirely up to them. There is so much bureaucracy at the state level that affects curriculum building for teachers. So much of this bureaucracy is led by individuals who have never taught themselves. I want to change that. After being a teacher myself, I want to change the politics that drive education in this state, and eventually, this country.

This is the legacy I hope to leave. Not just for myself, but for the future of this country. Without a solid understanding of mathematics, we are so limited in our knowledge of the world we live in, and thus, our effect on this world. And if it’s not our generation that teaches to life instead of to a test, who will?

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9 Comments

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