Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Four Things I Learned While Doing Math

Lately, I've been tutoring math to a h.s. kid who's studying at the British School Manila. I was looking over the textbook they use and immediately noticed there was a huge difference between the way the subject was being taught. I've been used to handling curricula that covers a lot of topics, but only on the same subject for the whole year or the whole semester. The British School, on the other hand, covers a smattering of different math subjects over the entire school year, i.e. a little of algebra, geometry, statistics, trigonometry, etc.

Admittedly, it was jarring to me at first. I mean, it would be kind of confusing for me to juggle factoring polynomials for a week or two and then suddenly shifting to calculating the angles of a polygon. As I was discussing this situation with another educator, he pointed out that it may actually be beneficial to kids who have a short attention span. In this manner, there would be a variety of topics covered, and boredom due to monotony could be avoided.

But I digress.

I was actually talking with the mom of the kid. Being the chatty people we both are, we got into talking about my own h.s. experiences about dealing with math. I told her, sure it's true that one doesn't really need to know how to do arc-tangents, solids of revolution, and critical points to survive everyday life. Adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying would do just fine. But it isn't the topics that are important, it's the skills you get out of doing math that matters.

And like I told her, these are just but a few things I learned out of doing math:

1. It pays off to be logical and systematic.
That's perhaps the most beautiful thing about math. You can't really pull things out of nowhere. Everything has a rhyme and reason, everything has a purpose. Step by step, you build up statements that are based on previous statements. It's exactly like building up a Lego house: brick C is on top of brick B, which in turn rests on brick A. Of course, there are always short-cuts are available, but even they have a reason for existence.

2. There is more than one way to skin a cat.
Believe it or not, there's a fair amount of creativity involved in solving math problem. There is no one solution to arrive to an answer. If one method doesn't work, there are always other methods to do it. And as long as the solution presented is solid and logical, then everything will be all right.

3. The more you do it, the better you get at it.
Math always has two components: the theoretical and the skills aspects. Personally, I hate the skills aspect to math. Juggling numbers has never really been my forte. I'm no walking calculator. I tend to be careless and let little slips pass by. And as we all know, if you build on that little careless mistake, then you'll end up with the wrong answer. That's why I always try to do more problems than what is required. If possible, I tackle the hardest items at the end of the exercises. It's a two-thronged approach: I get to practice both the skill, and at the same time, cover the possibilities that those items would be similar to what would appear in an exam.

4. Patience and perseverance are virtues after all.
I don't claim to be a genius. I really don't have ready answers whenever I do a math problem. Worse, a lot of times, I even hit a dead-end along the way of solving a question. Whenever this happens, I just leave it alone and just go on to the next. If I have the luxury of time (specially if they're just supplementary exercises), I even sleep over it. Sometimes the solution presents itself when I return to it. Sometimes, it doesn't. But my whole point is that I always get back and just work at the problem until I come up with an answer.

In hindsight, I guess I was just lucky that I had good math teachers when I was in high school and college. No matter how much I'd pester them to check my extra work outside class room hours, they'd be very accommodating. Thanks to them, I grew to love math, and in turn, I try my best seed that seed that love to the kids I teach.

But enough about me.

What has been YOUR math experience?


  1. If it comes to calculus, combinatorics, and integration; my forehead would be frowning like the crevasses of the Isles of Man.

    If it were geometry, trigonometry, and deduction; I'd be smiling like a teenage slut possessed by the Cheshire Cat.

    Impressive how you've successfully distilled such valuable tenets from the inexact yet exacting art of mathematics. How very busilak, mayumi and dalisay, indeed!

  2. Red: i totally understand - claculus and combinatorics do tantamount to a LOT of number juggling grrrr

  3. Back in high school. I got a grade of 72 in advanced algebra while my world history surged to 94. That quarter, I was the lowest and highest in two different subjects among my batch.

  4. i. hate. math.

    bago na tatawag ko sa'yo...

    Teacher Ternie!!! =D

  5. I love Math! I like applied Math tho coz it's fun to apply pure Math in real life.

    Most of the math people I know are very well-structured especially during problem analysis. Years of problem solving will do that to you. :D

    Most memorable: I had pure Math in college and we were asked to prove 1 + 1 = 2. Ang haba ng proof in fairness. Haha! :D

  6. here's mine: NOSEBLEED...


    Actually, I'm not good at math, but i love math, and that's how i measure guys.

    If they ask me for my age, I give them my EXACT age, yes including the point something something...

    If someone answers like a laugh, or something witty.. PASS...

    if someone asks, which one? the 24 or the 52? FAILED. NEXT!

  7. Galen: hey, i love history, too. especially when the teacher is the analytical instead of the memorize-the-dates kind of type ;)

    Engel: tseeeeeh kaaaaaa ahahahaha

    Ruby: consider that 1 + 1 is unequal to two.

    so, 2 minus 1 is unequal to two, and 1 is unequal to 1.

    but 1 is always equal to 1.

    therefore 1 + 1 = 2.

    don't you just love proof by contradiction? weeeeeee

    Mark: aw. magawa nga rin yan lolz

  8. i never really liked math. i don't know why. my greatest though (and i think i blogged about it in the past) is about trial and error. for the bigger problems, that is.

  9. City: sometimes, you can't avoid doing trial and error. nothing wrong with tha approach at all. it's called experiencial learning, if you get my drift ;)

  10. wait 'till you get to advanced engineering math, differential equations, matrices and determinants, and fourier analysis.

    i don't know how i survived them all, hahaha!

  11. ang masasabi ng isang civil engineer ay...

    I love Math...

  12. Like most NORMAL children, I hated math.

    When I grew older, I appreciated its precision. That there is only one and definite answer to any problem, which you can arrive at as long as you follow the rules.

    Therein lies its beauty.

    Life and people, alas, have infinite variables, and thus, numerous possible equations and outcomes.

    Therein lie their beauty, and their curse.

  13. anything that has got to do with math, i faint lols

    but much as i hate math, it seems to like me a whole lot. i'd like to think that i did pretty well with my math subjects during my hs and college years. but i especially love trigo. proving tangent something is equals to cosine of something. i like =D

    i really love this post. i thought i was going to have nosebleeds as soon as i saw the word "math" in the title lols

  14. my hangover just got worse. :-)

  15. proud akong magaling ako sa math...
    tipong nilalaban sa mga quizbee..
    kasama sa top 10 sa math subject.
    pero wala akong ideya sa mga nababasa kong nababanggit mong math terms, yun ang problema ko.
    pag katuto ko...
    bukas limot ko na.

    good thing about math...

    There is more than one way to skin a cat.

    malimot ko man formulas!
    basta tama sagot!


  16. John Stan: when we stated doing linear algeba and functional analysis, i knew i made the wrong move.

    i should've taken up hair science instead bwahahaha

    Clipped: ay nerd ka pala! hahahaha

    Ruddie: couldn't have said it more lyrically ;)

    Lee: trig is lurve! :D

    Iuri: aw. sorry naman :P

    Gege: huwaw, quiz bee contestant! teehee

    thanks fo dropping by a. feel free to look around my blog :D

    Gram MATH: hmmm, i wonder why? :P

  17. ternie tutoring a kid... a kid.

    hmmm... do the math.


  18. math? i'm cursed!

    i'm good at nodding. endlessly, i nod, when elsa klensch zeroes in on the merits of vintage valentino vs the edginess of sir alexander mc queen

    i might as well trade my cpa license for a sewing kit

    dropping by


  19. Ash: ay hanuvah. wag iproject ang trip mo sa akin! WAHAHAHAHAHA

    Bryan: haute couture fan, ey? ;)

    thanks for passing by! please feel free to have a look around! :D

    Xtian: ay oo naman ;)

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  21. Lost: yeah, i can relate. my block barkada were mostly from grace, and i always complained to them that they were the reason why our midterms and finals could never be curved! hahahahha

  22. i love math. it's absolute, no guesses and almost misses. it's either right or wrong.

    i love math. hahaha


  23. Darc: sana ganun din buhay no? ;)

    thanks for leaving a comment a. please, you're most welcome to look around my blog :D

  24. opo sir, i've been looking around naman before pa. hehe :)