One of the joys of my job is that I get to remove math phobia from students. I teach a required math course for social science majors, many of whom come from backgrounds that are not math heavy. Often this is the first math course they’ve taken since high school. Many of them think they’re just not good at math. I spend a lot of time filling in gaps of their knowledge, even doing silly things like going over every step of simplifying a fraction or solving for X, you know, just in case. (I do this because my Calc 1 instructor SUCKED and I learned almost all of Calc 1 while taking Calc 2 from a different professor at the local university because he would go through every single step of what I’d missed whenever we needed to know it.) I do extra tutoring in office hours. I constantly push the growth mindset on students.
From about midterms to getting final grades, my students start to realize that hey, maybe they’re not so bad at math after all. This week has been especially warm and fuzzy with students popping by during office hours to confide in me that they’re actually “getting” the class, something they thought impossible. (Last week they discovered and informed me that they’re several weeks ahead of the other section and have had much more difficult homework assignments– this has become a point of pride with them.)
Lots of students mentioned in office hours that it’s all coming together on this week’s homework.
One gentleman told me that his entire life he’s taken the easy way out, doing things that maximize how impressive they sound while minimizing actual need for thinking. This semester he’s taken some (gen-ed fulfilling) classes from our department, including mine, and they’ve challenged him and he’s risen to the challenge and he’s realized he likes to be challenged. He came by to tell me he’s changed his major to our department from communications. He’s actually the second person to tell me this week that (s)he’s switched into our major because my class wasn’t anywhere near as frightening as (s)he had thought it would be, not because it’s easy, but because (s)he can do it.
Another woman stopped by to tell me that she’s always been terrified of math and never thought she’d ever be able to do anything with computers, but she feels really powerful whenever she uses her statistical software on the homework. She can’t wait to take my (more difficult, semi-elective) class next semester.
A senior stopped me in the hall and told me how surprised she’d been to see that A on her transcript last semester, an A she’d earned in my harder semi-elective. The stuff she learned has been helping her this semester too.
It’s been a warm and fuzzy week.
Do you have any warm and fuzzy student stories to share?