I’ll never forget the day that a student asked my 8th grade teacher, “why do we need to learn science and math anyway?” You could tell he was waiting to answer that question all year long! His response was the following (not verbatim): I won’t lie, you may not use many of the specific topics we are learning in this class, but science and math are much more than the specific topics. They are a way of thinking. Math and science teach you how to think logically and serve as exercises for your brain. All of us use logic to solve our daily problems and challenges. We also use it to evaluate opportunities and challenges. Math and science help us reason logically through many of our decisions.
This really made an impression on me because it was at that moment that I realized if I was to stand the best chance of succeeding in school and subsequently in my career, I would need to make sure my brain was constantly being exercised.Fast-forward to high school and I was dealt the most difficult teacher in school, Mr. Al Diaz. Mr. Diaz was in his early 30’s at the time, yet taught with an old school approach – no graphing calculators and lots of paper. At best he let us use scientific calculators. Mr. Diaz taught me Geometry my freshman year and I hated him for it. He worked us hard and focused on proofs most of the year. Well, as it turned out, proofs are the best way to exercise logical thinking. I did not really realize how beneficial this all was until I had him again for Calculus I my junior year.
In Calculus I, he had the opportunity to really let us have it. The “no graphing calculator” rule was still in effect and he stressed that we learn to prove as many formulas and concepts as possible. He gave us take home tests, which our class thought would be a piece of cake, but little did we know that he wrote the questions himself from the most difficult calculus books he could find. He welcomed us to work together and in our small group of 12 students there was really no cheating because we all worked equally as hard on the tests. And there was always one question that he said separated the A’s from the B’s and it always lived up to its reputation.
Thanks to Mr. Diaz, I was able to develop reasoning skills that help me solve some very difficult problems in my academic, professional, and personal life. When I got to college I felt I was really behind on a lot of things, but math quickly became the great equalizer for me. Although I was a business school major I took Calculus II, Calculus III, Linear Algebra, and a few theory-based courses in probability. I was actually one class short of a math minor but that wasn’t why I took those courses. I really just wanted to keep exercising the my logic, reasoning, and creative thinking abilities.
Math continues to play a huge role in my life. I use it to solve business problems or simply find the fastest way to get from point A to point B with stops at G and M. I strongly believe that math helped me unlock my limitless potential. It helps my brain connect topics and subjects I never would have considered related thus making it easier to learn them. Just imagine having one learning curve for your entire life’s worth of learning instead of a learning curve in each individual subject.
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