A student remarked about how time was going fast until we hit this week, the week before our long-awaited Thanksgiving break.
“Remember what calculus teaches us: things change slowest at peaks and valleys,” everyone’s favorite know-it-all (me) said.
“Yeah…I’m definitely getting close to my zero derivative…” she replied.
Now if that’s not a real-world application, for you…
During Baking Club today (!!!), one of my students was telling me how much she loved the lesson on how viruses spread and what concavity and inflection points have to do with it. She said she went home and told her relative who works for the CDC that she understood the graphs from the news and what calculus has to do with it all.
I tried to remain cool and calm on the outside.
On the inside:
Our lesson today was on derivatives of inverse functions. I was showing them the patterns between the slope of the original function and the inverse function and how you just need to take the reciprocal. I said something like, “Maybe it’s not so shocking though, since dy/dx on the original…”
“Becomes dx/dy on the inverse…” a quiet girl finished my sentence. And then she brought her hands to her head and made an exploding motion, signaling mind blown.
“I know, right?!” I offered my agreement. My mind is still blown at the beauty of calculus and I hope always will be.
I loved numbers and patterns from a very young age.
Later, that love affair grew to include graphs.
And then eventually theorems and proofs.
I’ve always loved pure mathematics. I have a deep appreciation for applied math, of course; but I don’t need math to be applied (or even useful) to be intriguing, if I’m being brutally honest. I know that’s probably not the the right thing to say as an educator. But I love math for math.
But when I was a junior in high school, the president of Harvard said girls’ brains are simply wired differently and that’s why we’re less successful in math and science.
The president of Harvard.
And the thing is—that statement at that time was not an uncommon belief to hold.
Sometimes I wondered if that belief had some merit. If maybe I wasn’t as capable as my male counterparts. Or worse, if I was, was something wrong with me?
Of course now I believe we need all voices and brains at the table if we’re going to solve problems.
And so when these young women show interest and mastery in math…I can’t help but see myself all those years ago.
And now, on the other side of the podium, it is my mission that they always know their worth, their voice.
We need all kinds of thinkers to solve today’s problems.