This semester I am teaching a remedial course at the college. Last week, we spent the entire class doing greatest common factors and least common multiples. I actually got them excited about doing these problems and they kept asking to for "one more."
One guy was so excited about the process that I suggested he consider a math major. He just looked at me, kind of strange and said "No, I was never any good in math." I thought about what he said and about his reaction to what we were doing and said, "No, maybe you never approached the subject correctly. I have seen people go from remedial courses to majors. Anything is possible." I'm not sure he believed me, but I did see a slight smile on his face. Then another guy asked me if I thought it was really bad for someone his age to be working on such basic problems. I hope I had the right answer when I said "It's not how long the trip takes, its that you get there in the end. You might not have been ready for school when you were younger but you are now and that is all that counts."
I know the remedial courses have a high failure and drop rate. I'd like to think I am making a difference in some lives and can get the people in this class to not only succeed but to get over their fears and dislikes of the subject.
Don't doubt for a minute you are making a difference. It was my remedial math teacher at my local junior college who first urged me to consider a math major. I had the same exact reaction. I told her I'd never been any good at math and she said "then you'll be able to help all the students who struggle because you'll know where they are coming from."
Her words changed the course of my life. That was 1994 and here I am 16 years later 12 years into my teaching career. And I do believe that I am able to help those who struggle because of my struggles.
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