Doing the math

A letter writer is trying to decide whether to join the math stream at school – it might mean sacrificing a holiday or two. 

Our elder is in no doubt: take the challenge!


Dear EWC

Hi, I just wanted to get some advice. I’m planning on choosing mathematics for my second year of high school. I’ve always been confident in my math skills, but knowing that mathematical stream is the most difficult one, I’m having doubts on whether I could make it or not. I feel pressured too, as the mathematical classes have less students (because not a lot of people choose it). I understand that you can’t possibly know the difficulty of this stream as you’re probably not from my country, but I would like some advice on how to ameliorate my skills, and whether or not I should sacrifice my holidays in order to get better at math. Have a nice day! (English is my third language, I’m sorry for the potential errors).


Salvador replies

What is more important in your life?  Are holidays today more important than your future? Preparing for the future will provide better opportunities than enjoying a holiday. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice something to achieve your goals. Some goals are more important and crucial than other things in life.

That does not mean that you cannot enjoy life. Don’t look at the glass as half empty. Look at it as half full. In other words, be more positive. Another thing you need to consider is to organize yourself and have a study plan. The key is to be disciplined. Stick to the plan. Those plans include entertainment. That could mean you can enjoy a holiday part of the day or select which holidays will be sacrificed. Also, because you do not have a holiday, it does not mean you cannot have another day for yourself. It is a matter of perspective, attitude, and planning.

I did a little research on math streams. It does look very interesting and challenging. However, I can see that it can be fun too. You have a wide variety of learning approaches and at the same time you go over other topics as you learn math. It gives you a better idea of the different ways you can use math. That requires thinking skills. It will prepare you to be a better problem solver in other areas. Why? Because math teaches your mind to use analytical skills needed in life when making decisions.

Don’t let fear control you. Grab the bull by the horns and tackle it. I know you will be so proud of yourself once you see how much you achieved. If you find that it is very difficult, don’t stop. Go to a school counselor to get guidance, talk to your classmates and work problems together. In today’s world you have so many resources available at the touch of a button, something I did not have in the past.

Here is my story regarding math. Math had not been my strength all my life. But, I liked math. When I joined the Army, I applied to get into electrical power generation. I was less than a high school dropout because I never went to high school. So, when I learned that I had to take a math and science test to get accepted to the program, I took a basic math course. It was hard for me but I did not give-up. I had to get a 70 to pass the math and science test. Well, I made a 72, but I did not care. I got accepted. At the beginning of the course, we had basic algebra classes to later solve electrical theory equations. Very often, I thought I was not going to make it. At times I did cry because I was on the brink of failing. However, I invited classmates for dinner to get the homework assignments done. Also, I bought books or signed books out from the local library. In those days, we did not have computers, much less internet.

When I graduated, I was so proud to have made it. I had the lowest GPA in the class, 82 percent. I did not care. I graduated and went on to work in power plant operations, maintenance, and repair of power generation systems.

I kept learning math on my own. Fast forward many years. Along the way, I designed strategies to learn and teach math. I tutored kids because I wanted them to love math. Without a degree in math, I now teach math to a co-op of children that are homeschooled. The children and the parents love the way I teach math. It is unconventional, I admit. However, I make it fun because at every step I use real life problems to practice math concepts. They practice by doing a home budget, they use formulas to design a basic electric circuit problem to select an A/C for their home, and they learn basic accounting. I have them use math problems in the fields they want to go into. That means that they have to learn to convert from pounds to kilos or from meters to yards. Along the way, we use formulas to work with basic statistics. I procured a use survey scope and they have to figure angles and distances. They do not become experts on all those topics. They learn the math concepts in everyday applications and practice analytical skills. That approach could help them in deciding what field they want to go into.

That is what math stream looked like to me when I went online to see what it was all about. Actually, I push the kids to learn math levels a little above their age. However, they have risen to the occasion and their parents are very happy despite my demanding strategies. Why? Because the kids have fun learning math. So, are you ready for the demands of the math stream challenges? It is up to you. You have the means and skills to do it. The question is whether you have the determination and the discipline to do it. You combine that with your priorities in life. If you give holiday fun over math, it will affect you in some ways in the future. I am not saying that you will be a failure. The point is that the results may be different than what you expect. Also, are you going to let fear control you?

I hope this reply helped you and that it works out for the best. Remember, what kind of future do you want to plot, what habits do you want to keep? Either quitting or facing challenges?

Article #: 461409

Category: School

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