I don’t like secrets, but there is one I will take to my grave: my high school score on the ACT math section. Granted, that was back in the day when kids took tests cold and I had never had anyone that could connect all the mathematical dots for me, but still, it was a resounding failure.
From that point forward I avoided the topic at all costs, but that proved problematic years later when we started our homeschool journey. My innocent little children were dependent on me to make sure their education was whole. I quickly resolved that my lack of skill would not handicap them. I didn’t want my fear to shape these two precious kids. So, I read books on how to make math fun. We dove into a manipulative math program and played math games. And, I made sure my kids did their math assignment early in the morning, while they were fresh. On days when little else happened, math was the one thing that always did.
Despite my best efforts, my son didn’t like math as he struggled through algebra. But, I maintained a no-whining policy and he slogged through it day by day leaving some pages of his Algebra 2 textbook smudged and blurry with his tears. He wanted to be a scientist, but nothing his PhD mentor could say would convince him that he needed to be good at math.
Then geometry happened. The nit picky calculations gave way to the glory of proofs and suddenly my kid was telling people that math was his favorite subject. He went deep and started reading Richard Feynman and dreaming of physics. However, at Caltech he discovered that he liked the factual, black and white nature of math rather than the fuzzy solutions other disciplines seemed to accept. He kept growing and building, finishing grad school, and worked for multiple companies developing algorithms. As you read this, he is packing his belongings in Seattle and heading to New York City where he has been offered an amazing job as a data scientist.
From the tears of a reluctant little boy to a man in demand for his mathematical skills, it has been a heady trip. My second child found her brother’s tear stains as she worked through his books. Today, she has a degree in Operations Research.
How is it that a mathematical midget could produce two math whizzes? It starts by not dismissing the area you struggle with. We have made a promise to educate our children well and that means we figure it out or find people to help. It is important not to cripple your children with your inadequacies. It is vital that you do not transfer your fears. Most importantly, I can promise you that God blesses parents who do their best and stay the course.
Some years ago, my adult son leaned down to give me a hug, “You know Mom, if you had had a good math teacher, I believe you’d be a mathematician today.”
I’ve decided that’s my story. And I’m sticking to it!
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