The biggest fights my father and I had were about math.  I kid you not.

The year was 1984.  I was a junior in high school, taking Algebra II.  Radicals were kicking my scrawny, little butt.

(Remember radicals?  They look like this: [pmath]sqrt{24}[/pmath]. In Algebra II, you mostly learned to simplify them, as well as add, subtract, multiply and divide with them.)

My father wanted to help, and he had the patience of Job.  But he was not great at accepting that I didn’t understand.  And I wasn’t great at controlling my emotions.  I hollered, cried and probably threw things.  Somehow, I got the impression that my dad thought I couldn’t do math, and I did what any strong-willed girl will: I dug in my heels.

That’s when I started drinking coffee, actually.  I was so determined to show my dad–and my Algebra II teacher, Mr. Gardner–that I got up at 4:30 a.m., sat in my dad’s easy chair with a cup of coffee and a stack of sharpened pencils, and did problem after problem after problem.

I did every single radicals problem in the textbook.  And then I did them again. I took what Mr. Gardner and my dad taught me and figured the darned things out.  It took time, but I was determined not to give up.

Why on earth would I do this?  Well, I’m stubborn, for one.  But probably the biggest reason is Mrs. Ivey.  She was my geometry teacher the year before, and she changed my perspective about math.  You see, before then, I knew I couldn’t do math.  Mrs. Ivey convinced me that I was wrong.

She and my father are the reasons I majored in math.  I found out I’m a math teacher, not a mathematician. (Sometimes we’re one or the other.)  I’m fascinated by the ways people choose to do math, not by complex computations or proofs.

Math geeks aren’t always born.  Sometimes a teacher inspires us.  Sometimes we’re dragged kicking and screaming. And sometimes we just learn to deal with math–because we have to.

What’s your math story? Share it in the comments section!

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