The Usual Tech Ramblings

David Seah, mathematics, and "getting things"

It’s gone 3:30am, and I’m sitting on yet another conference call, playing catch up with my feeds, when David’s latest entry entices me to read. He’s titled it “The Math Edification of David Seah”, it’s an interesting read, and strikes a few points home. Having moved to the US, all my qualifications seem a litle “off” compared to what everybody else is capable of, or has “the paper” to “prove” they could do something. For example, filling out an insurance form is interesting, especially when it asks for your education level. Back home, I finished college, compared to over here, I’m probably nowhere near college level. See, college level here is equivalent to university level there… So it has made me want to get back into some form of education to play catchup so to speak. But reading David’s article has reminded me of some things that make me think back, and realize. Math was one of my best subjects in the lower end of schools. I was excelled a year ahead of my class, why? I think it boiled down to two things:

  • A good teacher
  • Great materials I could relate to

At this point in my life, we had one teacher that covered everything from math, to english, to science. She was great (which reminds me, I might pop in and see how she is doing when I get home), encouraged my hard work, inspired me to learn more, and figured out what made me learn best, which was why I excelled to a year ahead of my class. That was when I enjoyed math.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy math, I just have a different perspective after going through college. Through high school, and college, I had two teachers for math. One covered statistics, probability, and that fun stuff, while the other covered Calculus, trig, and that fun stuff. The teacher that covered stats had a monotone voice, was dull to listen to, didn’t convey information entirely well, and happened to probably be one of the smartest teachers at the school… I learnt very little from him. My other teacher, very fun, bubbly personality, you could tell she enjoyed math, I learnt quite a bit from her.

As David points out, there are lots to make learning work well for people. Two that hit me well are “Relevance” and “Presentation”. I’ve come to realize that if I don’t find anything I can relate to, then I generally don’t get very into the subject. Take for example, languages. I studied German, and Spanish in highschool. Spanish only for a year, and German for 3. I cannot remember either of them, but now I wished I could at least remember some Spanish. After all, living in Texas, it would come in handy sometimes. Biology is another one I could never get into. I never did get why I was studying photosynthesis of a water plant for several weeks. I understood the theory, I understood the why, I could never remember any of the names of anything involved, nor could I find it relevant to what I want(ed) to do.

As for presentation, long stretches of text bore me, they don’t even enter into my brain if I cannot enjoy it. A hint to people doing manuals, instructions, and teaching, make the presentation fun, give the “student” something to remember. I cannot remember the pages upon pages of drawn out examples (using plain text) from Math at all, hell, I’d be lucky to remember half the symbols now.

With that being said, I really should try getting back into school to play “catch-up” and learn all the stuff I missed. Maybe I can find a new relevance now that I didn’t have before. Take a read of David’s blog, very interesting read.