First Semester Update

The second quarter is over. I got an A, just barely, with 94 percent.

After retaking a high school Algebra II class for five months, I have learned a few things about math and myself.

For a former math phobe, perhaps the most surprising thing is this: I like solving problems. Graphing by hand is tedious (all those wobbly lines), and the graphing calculator does not interest me much (just plugging in numbers), but I do enjoy taking a sharp pencil to the page and isolating a variable and moving numbers around until I get the right answer. It’s a soothing mental workout.

I have come a long way from the day I stared blankly at a Virginia Standards of Learning test, perspiring from the foreign language before me and flashbacks of a high school math teacher who once wrote on my report card: "Michael is not in the Circle of Knowing."

Still, success in math comes at a price: Time.

Effort and diligence make a good math student. The difference between the math student I am now and the math student I was 15 years ago is improved study skills and, thank goodness, a little less hormone-induced despair. (Oh and about $100,000 in college tuitions, a decade of work experience, and a Washington Post audience that gets updated on my quiz scores...)

Now, after spending half a year learning math, I’d like to turn my time and attention from my own math struggles and tap into those of today’s teenagers -- my classmates.

I will still be attending the class periodically throughout the spring, but I'll be auditing it from a reporter's perspective rather than taking it as a student. I'll also be visiting other math classes to get a better sense of the range of math abilities and preparation in the school.

In addition to my perspective on high school math, I will bring in more insights from students and teachers about their frustrations, successes and day-to-day experiences as they participate in the national push toward universal access to higher math.

As ever, I remain eager to hear and share your thoughts and ideas about how we can create a new generation of confident mathematicians.

By Michael Alison Chandler  |  February 10, 2009; 12:50 PM ET  | Category:  Class Time
Previous: Test Your Quantitative Literacy | Next: Tackling Eighth-Grade Algebra in Chicago



i'd've been reading pretty regularly even
if you'd've just been "covering the story"
(as you propose to do next semester).
but your actual participation--
having "some skin in the game"--
made it particularly compelling.

anybody else, i'd tell 'em:
"you can't quit *now*!"
(it's axiomatic with me that every student
should take math till they drop --
it's the best thing in the academy).
but you get a pass.

you still have to pass it forward
by teaching to somebody else
whenever you get a chance, though.

keep on mathbloggin'! V.

we can create confident mathematicians
by taking mathematics seriously.
there's probably no royal road.

Posted by: vlorbik | February 11, 2009 6:59 AM | Report abuse

94% sounds pretty good to me! Congratulations!
Math does take a lot of time. But it's worth it - and as your foundation gets stronger, you don't have to spend as much time reviewing some basics - the blocks are there to build on.

Posted by: KathyWi | February 11, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Michael, don't be a quitter. The kids can't quit and you shouldn't either--otherwise you're doing just half the story. I mean your series is called "A YEAR Reliving High school math."

Posted by: nadine2 | February 11, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

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