Jessica Lahey, New York Times - Motherlode, July 31, 2012
"I know precisely where I lost my battle with math, the moment I was informed clearly and unequivocally that I simply wasn’t “a math person.” My seventh-grade math teacher, an otherwise lovely man, called each of his students up to his desk one by one in order to write a “1” (for the honors track) or “2” (for the standard track) on the school’s official math placement forms. As I watched from over his hunched and courduroyed shoulder, he wrote a beautiful, decisive and neat “1” on my form.
"There it was, in permanent ink. I was good at math.
"“Jess, could you come back up here for a minute?” he asked as I floated back to my seat.
"He reclaimed my form, and carefully overlaid that beautiful “1” with a dark, clumsy “2,” pressing hard with his black pen in order to make sure the ink obliterated any evidence of his indecision.
"And from then on, I wasn’t good at math anymore.
"From the moment I was relegated to standard math, I knew I was never going to be an engineer. I went through the motions of my math education, but never put any heart into the subject. My teachers didn’t push back very hard because the evidence was in: I just wasn’t a math person. I’d make it through to the day I could opt out of math forever, and I would never look back.
"Except, I did. For years, I have eyed my colleague Alison Gorman’s math classroom with wary suspicion. I peek in on her class when I hear laughter, wondering what could possibly inspire mirth in algebra class. I have watched with wonder during recess when her MathCounts students show up with their lunches, willing to spend valuable leisure time challenging each other to think through math problems."