Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mathematics and Me

Today, a friend texted me, suggesting that I was in the wrong major. (Update: He suggested it in a joking matter, in case anyone thought otherwise.)

My response?  "No WAY! You know I think my major is perfect."  Which, most days, I do.

And, as a result of this conversation, and a class assignment (for school has started today), I have provided a small history of, yes, mathematics, and me.

My first name, Cebre, is pronounced "SAY-BRUH." 

The story that I know goes as follows (Mom, don't correct me... at least on here. haha!): Somebody had a card, perhaps given because of my birth, which when extended fully would spell out the word "celebrate."  Note that the first letter, and the last letter create the (here) prefix, "ce-."  Looking at that, my father decided he would like to name his child (me) a name with "ce" ("SAY") involved.  My mother remembered once knowing a Sabra in college, who was obnoxious and rude.  My father, an artist, decided that it was more aesthetically pleasing to conclude my name with an "e," protecting me from both immature and inappropriate jokes in middle school.

I was always a curious child.  I spoke my first poem when I was four years old, commenting on the ocean that I could see from my house:
"The waves are blue
The ocean is white
That is not good
What a sight!"
I loved discovering, learning, and yes, teaching.  I would do the first two, and then explain my newfound knowledge to all with open ears, giving the credit to "the schoolhouse in my heart."  I believed in both fairies and unicorns, and would sometimes chatter to the blossoms in the trees (fairyland) or search for small white pebbles in the driveway (unicorn eggs).  I also believed that music was the universal language between all living things, and would sing outside to the trees, birds, and deer.  In my mind, they could completely understand me.

School was a delight.  My earliest memories of learning were from my Grandma Southwick.  I remember her teaching me that the lower-case "e" did not look like a backwards "g," and I remember learning how to borrow when adding.  I loved school.  I loved doing my homework, I loved answering questions, and I loved lovedloved talking with my friends.  I would sit in the front of class, where I would finish my work, and then start chattering once more, either talking for the pure reason of, well, talking, or explaining to my friends how to understand the problem(s) at hand. ...This often got me in trouble.

Teaching was a delight!  I would go to the front of the class every chance I could get, with or without the permission of the teacher.  Like my preschool years, I thought everyone would want to know my ideas and understanding.  As I grew older, I would grade my friends' homework before the teachers would receive it, a sort of peer review. I would help my friends understand where the mistakes were and how to fix them.  I loved being able to discover how a friend thought, and then figuring out the exact or most efficient way to help them understand whatever concept was at hand.

Around this time, I first heard the term "mathematician."

"You'll be a mathematician someday, Cebre," my teachers would tell me.

As I grew more, understood more, and definitely worked more, I began to doubt their prophecy.  I was better at English, Physics, Art, perhaps even P.E.!  Math was a struggle, even if I loved it.  While it came naturally, it didn't come intuitively at all times.  I still taught many friends in class, but there were also many others who knew and understood more than me.

Then I was accepted to BYU.  I decided to take a math class, for I always loved math.  My professors were inspiring and fun.  I loved the students in my class, and I began to deliberate on my major.  At the time, I was on track to graduate in English with Honors, and yet somehow I turned towards mathematics education.  I've never been happier.

I still sit in the front of class, although I don't get in as much trouble for talking anymore.  I soak in the material given, and I will willingly teach my class content to any who will listen.  Some of my friends have made an unofficial pact to NOT ask me about school that day. 

Mathematics is as magical and beautiful to me as those fairies were, and I hope to be able to share that perspective through my teaching someday.

As for now, though, I also hope to remember this perspective as school wears on... and wears me out.

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