STEM ROAD TRIP TIME!

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Is there any better time to explore something new than during the summer? We sure don’t think so. With the typical flock of festivals, parties and weekends at the cottage you’re already probably taking part in this summer, sometimes it can be good to shake things up a little. There are tons of math/science-related attractions across the continent that we totally want to hit up before the summer ends. Check out our list of the best places to head to if you’re feeling like your brain might be getting a little blurry..

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  1. MOMATH – New York City, USA

Aka the Museum of Mathematics. Yes you read that correctly. The city that never sleeps is also home to the National Museum of Mathematics, the only museum of its kind in the entire country! According to their website, MoMath “strives to enhance public understanding and perception of mathematics”. Now that’s a field trip outing we can 100% get behind.  

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  1. The Science Centre – Toronto, Canada

Sometimes, we forget that Toronto is home to one of the coolest museum’s in the country. In addition to the Science Centre’s permanent displays, there’s always special exhibits and super cool IMAX movies that are worth checking out. Right now, you can catch A Beautiful Planet, (a doc that explores Earth from space and is narrated by #girlboss J-Law) and America Wild (which takes you on an experiential tour of America’s best national parks).

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  1. National Air and Space Museum – Washington DC, USA

Put that physics knowledge to use and gear up for your Grade 12 Calc & Vectors course by visiting the National Air and Space Museum in DC. A part of the Smithsonian Institute, the museum boasts the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. In addition to being able to get up close and personal with spaceships, the museum also features tons of educational info on planetary science and geology. Can’t make it all the way to DC? Check out their STEM webcasts, 30-minute live webcasts you can catch that cover Science, Technology and Engineering related topics!

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  1. Museum of Natural History – New York City, USA

If you’re visiting the MOMATH in NYC, then you might as well kill two birds with one stone and head to the Museum of Natural History too. If you’ve seen the Ben Stiller classic Night at the Museum, you can experience all those exhibits in IRL (but we can’t guarantee the dinosaurs will actually come alive). Between the Cosmic pathway, Ocean Life Hall and Hall of Human Origins, this is a museum you could kill some serious time in .

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  1. The Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum – Ottawa, Canada

We all know by now that Food = Science. That’s why we’re suggesting this totally unique museum found in our nation’s capital. Check out the inner workings of a farm, learn about Canada’s agricultural history and the technology that’s working to create renewable energy production on farms. Current exhibitions to see include “Food Preservation: The Science You Eat” and “Taking Care of Beesness”.

Best Apps to Beat Boredom AND LEARN

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Here at The Math Guru, we strongly believe that summer should be all about fun and games, but that doesn’t mean letting your brain turn to mush! That’s why we’ve compiled this list of apps you can download on your iPad/iPhone/Android/whatever the newest gadget is to keep yourself entertained and educated. From crosswords to math games, we’ve got you covered. So next time you’re looking for something to do on a quiet night or rainy day grab that screen of yours and get learning!!

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Sushi Monster

This adorable and super delicious looking game helps to reinforce your math fluency using sashimi as the inspiration. We’ll take 6 pieces of california roll + 3 dragon rolls please!

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Little Crossword Puzzles

Don’t have much time? Looking to kill a few minutes while you wait for your friend at Starbucks? Whatever the case is, the Little Crossword Puzzles app will keep you busy for a short period of time. The app comes with a bunch of puzzles that can be solved in under  than 5 minutes.

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What’s better than Pizza, how about Pizza FRACTIONS. This app is perfect for kids who are being introduced to fractions, but we have a feeling some of our older students could also always use a little fractions refresher…

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Sudoku Puzzle World

Sudoku Puzzle World is a super aesthetically pleasing game that’ll also get you to put your “thinking cap” on. With stunning backgrounds for each puzzle, this is probably the most calm you’ll ever feel when dealing with numbers.

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Crossword: World’s Biggest

Looking for a challenge? Try the world’s “biggest” crossword puzzle! If you’re up for testing your all-around general knowledge (topics range from history to pop culture to science) then this app is for you! Download it to get access to over 300 puzzles and 7000 clues. That should definitely keep you busy for the next couple of months..

Staying SHARP and SMART During Summer

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Now that school is officially OUT, you can kick back and relax- well kinda. While we totally encourage taking the summer  to wind down and recharge, it’s also a good idea to incorporate a couple of easy (and fun!) activities into your break. Check out this list below for a few suggestions on things you can do to stay sharp and smart during your vacay. 

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Read, Read, Read

John Green, (a.k.a author of The Fault in Our Stars) said “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” If you think that reading should only be done when your english class requires it, you might want to reconsider. Supplement your spare time in the summer with books that actually interest you. Reading (of any genre) has the capacity to exercise your brain and improve its function.

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Crossword Puzzles, Sudokus, Educational Apps etc.

Between smartphones and iPads, there are endless options of apps you can download that might actually help build brain cells instead of deplete them. Rather than opening up Angry Birds or Candy Crush, stock your electronics with Sudoku apps or Crossword puzzles. In need of some recommendations? Stay tuned for our next blog post!

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Make Time for Cultural Activities

Get out and explore your city! During the summer months, so many museums and galleries feature special exhibits. Browse their websites to see what’s happening, and find something that looks appealing to you. Make a point to visit one of these places on a rainy day or on a weekend. You’ll leave feeling cultured and educated!

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Watch Documentaries

Documentaries are a great way to feel both educated and entertained. With Netflix, Shomi and so many other streaming services around, there is no shortage of docs you can watch right from the comfort of your couch. If you aren’t sure what’s worth your time, check out lists of film festival favourites and award show nominees for some inspiration. We’re giving a shout out to Cosmos, at 13-part documentary series that’s out of this world…literally.

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Keep a Journal

You know that sick feeling in your stomach you get the first week back at school when your teacher asks you to write a paragraph and you can barely remember how to hold a pen?! Keeping a journal will prevent that!! Summer always feels like it’s over way too quickly, so make the most of it by documenting all the adventures you get up to. Not only is it a great way to remember your experiences, but also to reflect on, and appreciate them.

Math & Memes & Talk Shows, OH MY!

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It’s the second week of June and we know that can only mean one of two things – you are either in the thick of exams or soooo close to the finish line you can almost taste it. There are of course a couple of you lucky ducks that are already out for the summer and (whom we are totally jealous of). Whatever your current situation, we thought we’d brighten your Thursday with some math related (but totally awesome) content.   

If you’re one of those people who thinks that math and science are reserved strictly for textbooks and classrooms, think again! We’ve scoured the internet to find you some of the most hilarious articles and videos that combine our favourite things: academics and pop culture.

 

  1. This article from U.K. Complex that worked out how Reddit used calculated how much money Joey owes Chandler (plus many more pop culture math problems). 

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2. These videos from Jimmy Fallon where he explains “popular mathematics”. Definitely not the most accurate source for educational resources, but we give Jimmy credit shining a spotlight on the concept of math, and giving the subject a prime time TV spot! (We’ve linked two of them below, but Jimmy’s made several of them!)

 

3. This math meme ft. Lady Gaga that will totally help you remember how to deal with polynomials. BEST.

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4. The PBS Math Club just about knocks our socks off. This collection of Youtube videos riffs off of well-known movies to explain mathematical concepts. Videos range from a Wes Anderson style satire that explains how to multiply positive and negative numbers to a Mean Girls/Darth Vader collab that lays out adding negative numbers. We’re OBSESSED.                        

Top 5 Study Break Ideas (that don’t involve stress eating!)

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Last week on the blog, we featured 5 awesome recipes to fuel you during your study sessions. While we highlighted the importance of food for energy and nourishment, for many, it’s easy to over do it on the snacking. Instead of stress eating, try these five different activities during your study break. Not only will they make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated, but they will prevent that bloated and uncomfortable feeling you might get when you eat too much and then have to sit back down to study.

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Meditate

Yes, there’s a reason that our logo happens to be a woman sitting in the classical “Lotus” (or “meditating”) pose with beautiful mathematical symbols emanating from her hands. Meditation is a great way to relax and slow your heart rate down, something you’ll find especially helpful if you’re feeling hyped up and anxious over a certain set of problems. Find a space to sit down, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. If you aren’t sure where to begin, try using an app. We love Headspace and Stop, Breathe & Think.

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Phone a Friend

Sometimes, there’s nothing more isolating than sitting alone in a room for 3+ hours on end. Rather than sending texts and distracting yourself throughout your study session, save the chatting for a break and have a #realtalk over the phone with one of your besties. It will get your mind off of the books, and make you feel less lonely!

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Stretch

We all know that sitting in the same position for a long time is horrible for our bodies, especially if that position is being hunched over a desk. Take a few minutes here and there to get up and give your body a decent stretch. We recommend focusing on exercises that open your chest, to counteract all that screen time. Small movements like rolling your shoulders, clasping your hands above your head, or a runner’s calf stretch will also have you feeling energized!
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Get Some Fresh Air (and Up Your Step Count)

There’s nothing like a breath of fresh air! If you’re feeling trapped and claustrophobic at your desk or in the library, take 20 minutes to go for a walk. Fresh air can reinvigorate you and there are countless studies that have shown that being in nature stimulates the brain, increases immune function and has a calming effect on our bodies. Use a pedometer to track your steps, and set a step goal for yourself to make sure you’re moving enough even during exam time. If you have a dog, do double duty by crossing a chore off your to-do list, while also taking care of your mind, body and soul!

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Have a Dance Party

You know it’s never a dull moment here at The Math Guru, so why not incorporate some of the crazy into your own private studying sessions? If you’re feeling fatigued and unmotivated, put the books away for a couple minutes and blast your favourite tunes. Be sure to get out of your chair and dance around to them, since frequent movement is key to surviving long periods of studying. Don’t worry no one will judge you based on your music choices OR dance moves, so go all out and get those endorphins pumping!

The Top 5 Study Snacks For Exam Time

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If you’ve ever been to one of the Math Guru’s EXAM JAMS (a.k.a. exam review sessions that are kind of like a house party but way cooler) than you’ll know that we are all about having plenty of snacks. Not only is having a snack the perfect excuse to take a quick study break, but getting the right nutrients is essential for ensuring you are powering your brain with the fuel it needs! Below, we’ve listed some easy peasy recipes you can make and munch on while you’re studying!

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Avocado Toast

Probably the most intagrammed food ever, there’s a reason this food is so popular. It’s super easy to make, and is a more filling option that’s perfect for lunch. Avocados are high in healthy fats that lower blood pressure, and promote good blood flow. A healthy blood flow in turn contributes to healthy brain function. This article from Pop Sugar gives tons of ideas on how to prepare it, but if you want to keep it simple we suggest: a slice of multigrain bread, half an avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, and some garlic salt!  

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Energy Balls

We’ve featured these before, but energy balls are one of the easiest and most delicious things to whip up. Not only can you make a bunch at once to have on hand while you study, but this recipe has chocolate chips, and will seriously satisfy your sweet tooth. Pack your energy balls with nuts and seeds to really reap some brain power benefits. They are high in Vitamin E, which is known to boost cognitive abilities.

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Smoothies

We know it can suck that final exams happen right when the weather gets warm. Beat the heat with a refreshing smoothie that will also recharge and rejuvenate you with all the energy you’ll need to finish those practice questions! This Buzzfeed article lists eight different recipes that all use only 3 ingredients each – showing you just how simple it is to create endless varieties that taste amazing!! Pro tip: We recommend #7 (Blue Magic) since it uses Almond Butter (nuts = Vitamin E) and Blueberries (which are thought to improve learning capacity!).

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Overnight Oats

Oats are a great way to get your glucose, which is the primary fuel your brain uses to power itself. Glucose comes from carbohydrates, (*spoiler alert: the right carbs aren’t bad for you!!) and oats are made up of carbs. But the carbs in whole-grain foods like oats get broken down by the body at a very slow pace, so it helps keep you full and focused for much longer than a something like a piece of white bread. Make these oats the night before a long day at the library, and bring them with you to eat if hunger strikes.

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It’s no secret that over TMG we have a slight obsession (ok fine, a HUGE obsession). Although most wouldn’t technically consider it a “snack”, a cup of tea can sometimes be all you need for a little pick me up! Plus it’s great to have with you since you can sip away while studying and stay focused. Tea has less caffeine than coffee, so a cup won’t leave you feeling jittery, but will still stimulate your brain and boost your energy. What’s more, a cup of tea has lots of antioxidants, which are also known to improve blood flow.

Top 5 Pitfalls to Watch Out for When Studying

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studytipsfromfaye_LargeWideWe so often here tons of tips and tricks that are supposed to make you study better, and help you ace those finals. However, there are a lot of common mistakes students make that don’t get addressed. With exam season around the corner, we’ve listed the top 5 pitfalls you might be the victim of when studying. By become more aware of these mistakes, you can take action to correct them, and (in the words of our fave rapper Kanye) make you study harder, better faster and stronger!

  1. Memorizing

One of the biggest issues students have is relying on memorization of facts or formulas, rather than actually understanding the information they’ve been given. This becomes a problem especially in “thinking” and “understanding” (lol maybe??) questions, since you’re less likely to be able to apply information to questions you haven’t seen before if you’re just memorizing. Use study strategies, like saying things aloud in your own words, to make sure you’re actually understanding the bigger concepts!

  1. Studying Chronologically

Although it might be tempting to want to study in the same order that you learned the material, it’s something to try and avoid doing. Focus on the most important information, and try and pick up on any hints your teacher might give on sections that are priority. Often, when students study in order, they don’t leave enough time to properly study the last units. Its also usually a safe bet that you’ll be tested heavily on the most recent information you’ve learned, so make sure to revise it thoroughly.

  1. Setting Overly Ambitious Study Goals

If you’re setting out to study for 8 hours in a day, it’ll be very difficult to accomplish. Even if you’re sitting down the entire time, your body and brain will usually feel drained after 4-5 hours of intensive studying. What’s more, if you’ve mentally blocked out such a long time period, you’ll probably use your hours much less efficiently and end up spending 40-50% of that time on FB or Instagram. Also, if you’re unrealistic with what you want to get done, you’ll probably feel unmotivated and upset when you don’t accomplish what you set out to.

  1. Sacrificing Sleep to Study

We generally see this with our older students, but make sure you aren’t staying up late the night before your exam. It’s super important to get a good night’s rest every night during exam periods, since good sleep is one of the most important tools for helping you retain information. Going to bed at your normal bedtime will also mean you aren’t cramming at the last minute- something you definitely want to avoid!

  1. Negative Thinking

This is something we talk about allllll the time. The absolute worst thing you can do when studying is to beat yourself up. Didn’t do so well on your last test? Don’t sweat it! Look at each evaluation or exam as a fresh start, and a new chance to prove to yourself that you’ve got this. Since you can’t control what the exam will cover, or its level of difficulty –  focus on what you can control- your mentality! Take pauses and deep breathes if you start to feel flustered while studying, and just keep telling yourself “I can, and I will!”

MMMVAs (Much Music Math Video Awards)

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Sometimes the internet just blows us away. Between the thousands of memes, Buzzfeed lists, and those quick speed cooking videos all over our Facebook feeds, it’s never a dull moment. YouTube in particular is home to some pretty sweet content, including these HILARIOUS math parody music videos. Today, in our own version of the Much Music Video Awards, we’ve rounded up our favourites. If you’re in need of a little pre-homework pump up, get into the zone with one of these videos. We promise they’ll have you calculating to the beat.

“It’s Just Math” – Frozen Let It Go Parody

Yes, Anna and Elsa love math. This song has an emphasis on geometry, which makes perfect sense, since Elsa’s frozen castle was basically constructed out of ICEsoceles triangles. (Pun, very much intended).

“Teach Me How to Factor” – Teach Me How to Dougie Parody 

What’s better than catchy rap? How about a catchy MATH rap. This parody of “Teach Me How to Dougie” will actually teach you how to factor. So if you’re tired of staring at your notes from class, drop this beat in the background while you’re doing your homework and you’ll be a factoring pro in no time.

“All I Do is Solve” – All I Do is Win Parody

Ok huge shoutout to the WSHS math department for killing it with these videos. The same school who put together “Teach Me How to Factor” also has this gem of a song. “All I Do is Solve” focuses on solving equations, and it even goes through the three different methods, graphing, elimination and substitution!

“Slope” – Hello Parody

Ok so maybe this one is significantly cheesier than our other picks, but if you’re trying to learn slope, this parody of Adele’s “Hello” is pretty bang on. Also props to this teacher who clearly just really wanted to sing about mx + b.

Uptown Factors – Uptown Funk Parody

We’ll finish up on an upbeat note! This is another video about factoring, but this time featuring a slightly more recent chart topper with this parody of Uptown Funk. We’re obsessed with everything about this video – from the dance moves, to the outfits to the informative equations that pop up throughout! You won’t be able to help but sing along!

SUPER Study Spaces

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With exam season around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about strategies you can implement into your study routine to help you ace those finals. Sometimes a lot more is needed than just a desk with some pencils and paper. Being in a space that is comfortable, but conducive to studying will help you work more efficiently, while also keeping you chilled out and focused. Below we’ve listed some key things you should look for in a good study space.

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1. Good Lighting

How are you going to study if you can’t read your textbook?! A well-lit space is so important if you want to avoid straining your eyes. Not only is it bad for them, but it’s usually the cause of that horrible study headache we’ve all experienced. If you’re studying at your desk, make sure you have a good desk lamp and position it in the top left corner so the light falls in the same direction that you read. If you’re at a coffee shop or library try to snag a spot next to a window so you can take in as much natural daylight as possible!

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2. Comfy Chair

As far as we know, no one’s ever studied on a stool and lasted more than 20 minutes. Comfort is key when studying and you want to make sure your back is being well supported so you don’t get any painful aches! However, if you’re sitting on something too plushy, like a couch, you might find yourself fighting the urge to doze off. Try and find a chair that keeps you upright, has a comfortable seat and a solid backrest.

IMG_07003. Minimal Noise

This one may be controversial, but we do recommend you don’t try and memorize your biology terminology with hard core hip hop blasting. Although lots of students find that studying with music in the background helps them focus, make sure you aren’t getting distracted by singing along. Instrumental music sometimes actually helps – try electro, or even some classical. Although coffee shops are great places to study, sometimes they can be a little too noisy. Try and scope out spots where you know the music and the atmosphere are chilled out enough that you’ll be able to focus.

IMG_07014. Brain Food

Nothing builds up an appetite like a long study sesh. If you find your energy has started to dip but you’re determined to finish that last problem set, grabbing a quick (and HEALTHY) snack will re-energize you so you can push on. Nuts and granola are a great option, as are crackers with hummus or cheese. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try out these healthy energy balls that are packed with protein but have a hint of chocolate. We are of course also in favour of sitting down with a soothing cup of tea, and replenishing as often as you like!unnamed5. No Distractions

GUYS. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat will not disappear forever if you don’t check them every 10 minutes. Put your phone out of sight – we suggest leaving it in a different room altogether, preferably one in which you have to climb 2 flights of stairs to get to 😉 You know even if you tell yourself you’ll only scroll for 5 minutes, it’s easy to get wrapped into a cyber vortex and waste half an hour without even realizing it. If you really need your laptop or phone with you, download an app like Forest. It grows a virtual tree while you leave the work-related app you’re using open, but kills it once you leave – don’t be a tree killer!!

Because The National Post Didn’t Want To Print This

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Every once in awhile you read an article in another publication that makes you scream “THIS! THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE UNIVERSE!” Well, that happened to me last week. So, like any normal human being, I wrote a scathing Op Ed piece for The National Post. And of course they didn’t publish it. Lucky you, I’m going to share it with you anyways. Enjoy!

In response to this gem of an article from The National Post, which essentially promotes the idea that some of us should simply ‘give up on math’ at the age of eight: Embrace your ineptitude when giving up is the right thing to do

“Embrace your ineptitude when giving up is the right thing to do.” First of all, wow, what a statement to make to your educated readers, many (if not most) who have no doubt worked hard to get where they are today – an aptitude level that enables them to read and (gasp!) understand the verbose and multi-syllabic lexicon of this very publication. What would have happened to this group of people is they had decided in say, Grade 2, that they simply didn’t and never would have the capacity to read so perhaps they should instead focus their efforts on ‘what they’re good at’? Numeracy and the presently increasing lack thereof among the younger generation is a growing concern, and as someone who failed math before realizing that her perceived ineptitude was simply something imposed upon her, I take issue with the notion that mathematical and direction-following ability is something that large portions of our population (marginalized groups and women, no less) are inherently bad at.

When I was in high school, I failed math. Twice. Of course, that made sense. I wasn’t good at math, I was good at art and English, usually it’s one or the other isn’t it? Can people really be good at multiple things? Shocker. My parents weren’t having it (which I am grateful for to this day, thanks mom and dad), and enrolled me in a smaller school where teachers didn’t indulge in the idea of ‘math people’ and ‘non math people’. Within a week I was enjoying the wonders of the forbidden fruits that mathematical knowledge held under the guidance of a teacher who believed in me right from the moment I walked into her classroom. I ended the year with a 99% in Grade 12 math, and went on to achieve a grade of 100% in first year university Calculus. I pursued a business degree, a teaching degree, and a Masters of Arts in Mathematics Education and now own a math & science tutoring studio in Toronto where the focus is on specifically eradicating and extinguishing the notion that ‘some people just can’t do it.’

Do we “live in a society that wants to change us into mathematicians and direction-followers,” or do we (and should we) live in a society where everyone has the opportunity to decide if they want to be a mathematician or direction-follower?  I see hundreds of students a week, most of whom do poorly at math because of a lack of confidence and a deeply embedded sense of inability. I work with students who, once they begin to succeed, are incredibly empowered by the realization that they can do something they believed so deeply that they couldn’t.

Math is more than calculations and Google Maps. Math is the intuitive ability to solve problems, to get creative, to think outside the box, something that no calculator or GPS can do for you. Sure different people may have different natural strengths, but do we really think that giving up if something proves difficult is any way to approach the many curveballs that life throws at us?  You say you’re here to tell us that “most of us cannot be changed.” I’m here to tell you that most of us can be changed if given the opportunity, the inspiration, and the impetus to want to change. I’m living proof and I hope my story speaks to those discouraged and disempowered by your message that their brains perhaps simply ‘don’t work in a particular way.’ Your brains all work just fine – now go embrace that mathematical aptitude burning within and find a problem that needs solving!