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My Math Autobiography

After reading Kent Haines blog "The Process Column" on how he incorporates math autobiographies into the first few days of his class, I have been inspired to try it in my class too. Class officially starts next week and I am going to read them mine and ask them to write their own version as well. I have invited a couple English teachers to write their math autobiographies too (like Kent did) so I can share experiences as well. I am looking forward to seeing what my kids say. 

Here is my math autobiography:


I remember very little about my math classes from school. There are a few things that stick out, but not for good reasons. I remember doing flash cards in first grade and feeling the victory of completing a set and getting to move on to the next and the utter defeat when I missed too many and I had to keep that set for a few more days until I got better. I remember playing around the world in fifth grade, standing behind my classmate trying to be the first one to answer the question so I could move on to be the traveler. The whole time my stomach in knots because I was so nervous about looking dumb in front of my classmates. I picked up on math quickly and did well in school not because of my school experiences, I think it was really because of what my mom made me do outside of school. She was an accountant and really loved to challenge me with mathematical tasks just about everywhere. As we would walk through the grocery store, I vividly remember her pointing to sale signs, like 3 for $5, and asking me to figure out how much a single can of vegetables would cost. No calculator and no cell phone to help (they didn’t yet exist). If I was really lucky (sarcasm inserted here) she would ask me to estimate how much the groceries would cost before we checked out. Every time we went out to eat, it was my job to figure out the tip (again without a calculator to help). When I got to high school, she encouraged/forced me to take a job at a flea market, working at a food counter. The prices were on a hand-written sign and there was no cash register. I had to figure out totals by adding everything up in my head. There was a calculator (finally!) but ironically, it slowed me down too much.  Because I became good at manipulating numbers in my head, doing it became like a game and it was fun.
I feel like I have always been a logical thinker (I love logic puzzles and number puzzles) but I never realized that using logical thinking, patterns, and deductive reasoning was math until I started teaching.  When I doodle, it is usually something geometric, cubes, pyramids, circles, etc. and I love symmetry in all things.
Since becoming a teacher (12 years ago) my view of what math is and what parts of the mathematical process are have drastically changed. I try to help my students see math in the world around them by noticing, wondering and asking questions. I want them to see connections between the stuff they already know. And I really hope eventually they will see the true beauty and creativity that math can bring.  

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