In all honesty, I have struggled with mathematics since fifth grade. While arithmetic patterns have come naturally to me, the introduction of pre-algebra concepts greatly confused me as I entered my pre-adolescent years. I am unsure if I found it difficult due to the expectation of increased difficulty (which therefore affected my attitude towards mathematics), or simply due to my lack of familiarity with algebraic concepts, such as linear and inverse equations. However, entering eighth grade pre-algebra classes proved to be the most difficult academic experience in my entire K-12 career.
By the time I entered eighth grade, my mathematical knowledge was hardly at a sixth grade student’s level; I had no prior knowledge of the linear formula y=mx+b, often simply leaving the formula as my answer in lieu of inserting the corresponding terms. Furthermore, taking notes in class felt hopeless; my note-taking methods had worked well in all of my other classes—I was otherwise an A student—however, I was consistently failing my math tests, no matter how hard I tried. One factor that made the situation even more stressful was the requirement to receive a score of 80% or higher on all tests in the course; otherwise, a student would receive a failing score, no matter how high they scored on homework assignments and quizzes. Although we were given the opportunity to revise our exams, it was often difficult for me to revise up to the required percentage.
At the end of the second quarter of the academic year, I had been rather pleased with my performance in the course; I had an 84% average, along with receiving mostly A’s in my other classes. However, when I received my report card in the mail, I was notified that I had received an F due to earning a 75% on an exam. I remember feeling dejected, wondering how I would survive high school coursework if I hadn’t even performed well in my middle school assessments. While my teacher was willing to tutor me into the beginning of the next quarter, and ultimately allowed me to re-take the test (resulting in receiving a revised report card a few weeks later, stating that I received a B in the course), this experience has still stood out to me as one of my most memorable academic failures.
This experience likely stood out to me due to it serving as a wake-up call for my study habits. Previously, I had believed that there was nothing that could be done about my difficulties in math; some people have a natural aptitude for the sciences, and some are more inclined to the arts. However, through the intense study sessions I endured in the effort to improve my test score, I learned that while I may not have a natural talent for scientific studies, it is my work ethic that truly led to achieving success. Therefore, for the final two quarters of the school year, I earned A’s in the course. To this very day, my hardships and triumphs during my eighth grade year serve as a reminder that nothing is impossible through perseverance.
Although my most difficult experience did simultaneously prove to be rewarding, it was not the only positive experience I had. In fact, my greatest experience to date has been teaching my fellow classmates how to create an equation for a sinusoidal function. In my junior year of high school, I participated in Honors Algebra II. I had managed to maintain an A average over the course of the year, although my most memorable experience was when I had been placed in a group of two girls who had a very minimal understanding of the subject. These girls were graduating seniors that year (all of the other students were juniors), one of which often was required to skip class due to prenatal health appointments. Therefore, neither of them fully understood the course material, and we would be taking a test over sinusoidal functions by the end of the following week. While I had gained a sufficient understanding of the course material, there were still small details that I did not feel completely confident about. However, I developed small lesson plans to instruct my group about different aspects of the functions each day, often answering their questions and seeking help from our instructor on the more difficult problems. Through teaching them, I was able to learn more about my study methods, my personality, and how I can better communicate with others in order to reach a common goal. As a result, all three of us passed the test, and I even scored above a 100%.
At the end of the day, these experiences have made me a much more understanding person, which I believe will help me to become an efficient teacher. These lessons have taught me that while every student learns in different ways, each and every one of them will succeed if they are given the chance. Through the encouragement of my peers, teachers, and self-driven persistence, I was able to evolve from earning mediocre grades, to eventually graduating as an officer in our chapter of the National Honor Society, placing approximately 12th in our class of 63. Furthermore, it is not only my improved grades and test scores that reflect the impact the experiences had on me, but the overarching theme that it is not one’s talent that leads them to success, but it is the support of their peers and educators, along with improved work ethic, that drive students to pursue their dreams. That is a skill that will apply long after graduation, and will last for a lifetime.