Math Was My Arch Enemy
by Brianne Ayala
I often comment that my husband and his family have the “math brain;” they tend to see the world in numbers. My son is seven and is on his third year at Diablo Valley School. Although he has never taken any formal classes in math, he has already learned how to apply addition, subtraction and even some multiplication to everyday problems in life. Perhaps he will follow in his father’s footsteps for the love of math.
In school, math was my arch enemy. I remember crying in third grade because I could not get the multiplication table. I stressed about going to math class every day where the teacher might call on me. By eighth grade I flat out gave up in math. This set me on a downward spiral. I had to enter a very remedial course in math in ninth grade. That determined that I could not go straight to a State College or University because I would not graduate from high school with a high enough math course.
This pattern followed me throughout life. I finished all my classes in general education to transfer to a CSU, all except math. Not wanting to finish math, I took on a different career choice. Years later I decided I would not let it defeat me and finished my courses in advanced algebra to transfer to CSU East Bay where I am presently attending. I even received A’s.
The other night I went out to dinner with a very close friend. Her daughter, the same age as mine and her best friend, will be starting kindergarten next fall, as will my daughter. My friend cannot conceive how I can send my daughter to Diablo Valley School where she will not be formally taught subjects, specifically mathematics. I let my friend know that I do see importance in knowing basic math skills. She went on to state that she uses algebra every day, many times a day, and therefore it is very important.
What my friend neglected to see is that it is okay to not go through the day applying math to various situations. More to the point, she was making an assumption that if you are formally taught math you will use math in everyday endeavors. I am an example that this is simply not true. One does not equal the other. However, if a person strives to understand math because of the career they wish to pursue or simply out of the joy of learning, then more power to them for seeking out the knowledge. Unfortunately, our school systems are not set up for individuals to seek out their desired knowledge. This knowledge is forced upon them.
The hardest part about being a parent in a Sudbury style school is trusting that our children will receive the education that they need, that their individual needs will be met. At the same time, this is the best part about sending your child there, because everyone has needs and everyone’s needs are different. At eight years old, I was not ready to be sat down and taught the multiplication table. When forced to do so I put up a block against anything mathematical. My children will never be forced to learn something that their mind is not ready to engulf. When they are ready for it — the environment, the staff, and their peers at DVS are there to help enrich them.