I am a mathematics tutor! I am eager to work with students from K-12 to support their personal learning goals. Students who are a good match with me are often creative and/or independent thinkers with a range of ability and interest levels in mathematics. I’m currently setting up a website and other aspects of my business, but if you’re reading this now and know a student who might be interested in tutoring (virtual and at-home options available), please have them/their caregiver email mathwithmargin (at) gmail (dot) com.
In June-July 2021, I participated in an online version of Budapest Semesters in Mathematics Education. I took two courses in which I experienced the Hungarian Pósa pedagogical method, and two courses in which I practiced using gamification and discovery learning in my own micro-teaching. The following is a revised version of an essay I wrote for a BSME assignment:
Three Reasons to Learn and Teach Mathematics
Firstly, I believe that no one should be forced to learn mathematics (or any other subject, for that matter). People do not learn well when they do not want to learn, and my reasons for wanting you to learn something may have little to do with your personal interests and motivations. So if the following reasons I list for learning and teaching mathematics do not resonate with you, I think that’s totally fine! Maybe you have other reasons that are more important or motivating for you, or maybe mathematics is just not something of interest to you right now. These are just some of the reasons that I feel to be relevant for me.
Mathematics is a joyful but widely misunderstood subject. Many people, especially in the United States, grow up to believe that mathematics is a dry, esoteric subject that only ”math people” learn and excel at. This is usually because of how school mathematics is taught: by lectures and drills rather than exploration and problem-solving. People tend to think of mathematics as a body of content knowledge, but it is really a practice and an art. Teaching and learning this practice of mathematics both have their difficulties, but the problem-solving process and the discovery of unexpected patterns can bring a lot of joy. Personally, to help others discover this joy is one of my biggest motivators for teaching mathematics.
It has applications in many endeavors. Some students go on to directly use mathematical skills in their careers, whether as mathematicians, statisticians, experimental scientists, accountants, teachers of maths or science, etc. Their mathematics classes not only may be the foundation of their skill development, but also of their interest in such careers. Other students go into careers that are less obviously dependent upon mathematics but may still need mathematical knowledge along the way. When one of my music professors graduated from college, he first took a job at a bank before undergoing graduate study in music; his mathematics courses were key for that job, which allowed him to sustain himself while he practiced music in the evenings. Mathematical skills make a person more versatile and employable in an ever-changing job market. Thus teaching mathematics is particularly important in underprivileged communities, as mathematical mastery can give students from these communities a better chance of success and personal fulfillment. Students can also apply their mathematical skills to real-world problems they are passionate about, such as through research projects seeking to make change in their own communities.
In the long term, mathematics trains you intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Even if students do not ever directly use maths after completing their education, their mathematical training can indirectly serve them well. Through mathematics, one learns deductive and inductive reasoning skills that are useful for all academic subjects (deduction being the logic of maths, induction being part of the problem-solving process as George Pólya observed). Through the solving of difficult problems, you learn perseverance, creative thinking, how to deal with imposter syndrome, and generally how to grapple with intellectual and emotional challenges and not give up. Through collaboration on problems and communication of ideas and solutions, you become a better collaborator and communicator in general and also learn to appreciate other people’s ideas and unique capacities. The emotional and social challenges of learning mathematics, especially feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome, sometimes make me doubt if I want to continue doing maths, but every time I persist in the struggle, I am becoming smarter and stronger.