Math…The Struggle is Real

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While I haven’t posted every single day right after I volunteer, I still like to share my favorite stories when I get a chance and this post is no exception. I recently learned that I have the ability to teach math–even geometry.

Geometry is my absolute least favorite mathematical concept (I could never understand the way my teachers taught it in middle/high school). And, of course, many of the students in the after-school program were beginning basic geometry and needed help on homework. Considering the other volunteers at the program are civics and life skills teachers and I am a chemistry major, I handle a lot of the scientific and mathematical questions the students have.

As soon as I was told there was difficult geometry homework, I cringed, knowing I would be no help to the students (or so I thought). I nervously looked over the worksheet and as I read the problems I continued to mentally freak out, wondering how I would even understand the problems myself. I forced myself to slow down and reread the problems one at a time. Even then, I found myself asking the students what certain formulas were or googling them if the students didn’t know.

It was very nerve wracking for me because I knew these young students were relying on me to help them figure out the problems they were stuck on. After looking the problems over a third time, something clicked and I realized I had been overthinking it all this entire time. We started drawing shapes on the board to help us visualize the problems and making a list of all the formulas we needed. Before I knew it, the students were whizzing through problems and, as I checked their work, I found most students were getting them all correct.

Afterwards, I led another STEM project in which we used vinegar, baking soda, and a water bottle to blow up a balloon. When I was setting up the experiment, the main volunteers for the program told me not to bother explaining the chemistry behind the reaction, and to just distribute the materials and verbally give the students directions. However, after the first few students got their balloons to blow up, they began asking me why it was happening and if they could try it again with different amounts of materials to see how it would affect their results.

I began explaining how vinegar mixed with baking soda creates an acid/base reaction, and I asked the students if they knew the general difference between acids and bases. While a few scoffed at the idea that they had to listen to me explain chemistry to them, many others were so excited to be learning something new and a few even told me they couldn’t wait to go to college so they could “do cool things” like I did, although most of them claimed that chemistry was just getting to blow stuff up using chemicals in the lab.

Overall, I knew I had inspired many of these students academically and it gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling inside to know I made such a difference.

When you volunteer or take time to be kind to others, how does it make you feel? What does this feeling say about the effort you are putting into your cause or kindness?

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