August 13, 2011

A Math Geek At An Early Age

As a kid, my family moved around a lot, as my dad was first getting his medical degree, and then later, getting his residency. This moved us from town to town and state to state, so I was attending new schools every year from Kindergarten through third grade. At each school, I had to be retested and find what would be the appropriate courses I could take - especially when it came to math, where classes were more likely to see kids from different grades mixed.

When I started in third grade at a very small elementary school, I remember being assigned to an advanced multiplication class, taught by the principal, which had no more than ten students. On the first or second day, the principal told us what we would eventually learn through taking his class - trying to wow us with complex double digit multiplication.

As he wrote out his problem and his solution, I noticed he had made a mistake. After pausing and rechecking to be sure my answer was right, I raised my hand and said I thought he was wrong, and explained my alternative answer, which was correct. That set up a sequence of events that had me getting tested and retested in each advancing math class, to find where I best fit, until I was stuck with kids from older grades, unhappy with this little pipsqueak who dared to join them.

That afternoon, as I told my mother what had happened, she was mortified that I had talked back to the principal, telling me I should have probably come after class to tell him I thought he was wrong. But being 8 and not having mastered the appropriate courtesy, I did what I thought was right and it thankfully pushed me into a class that was more challenging. It was one of the first times when I tangled with school leadership, but it certainly wasn't the last.

/via My Google+ Profile.

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