Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chi Squared my arse!

I tried to take a statistics class last semester and unfortunately, my first exam results weren’t so hot, so I ultimately had to drop the class. I literally had bad dreams about that class. My calculator and I couldn’t get along to save my life. There simply wasn’t enough time to put into the class. I had a rather good teacher, but he wasn’t one to let you have any helpful study aids for exams. Math, you see, has never been my friend. It has been my foe for decades. My first math teachers in elementary school made sure I memorized my math facts, but for some reason, I could never solve for “x”. Moreover, I never knew why it was so darn important for me to learn to solve for “x”, where to put it while I was solving for it, and why I had to put other stuff on both sides of the problems, in an attempt to solve for it. Moreover, it made little sense where or how in the real world I would ever need to do to one side what I was doing to the other in any situation I found myself in…you see my dilemma. It never made sense to me.

When I ventured into the mysterious world of general and organic chemistry a couple years ago for nursing, I had to learn dimensional analysis all over again. The rusty wheels in my brain started to churn and with a little oil from the tutors, the light started to illuminate in my head. Things convert to other things for a reason. This would be important in pharmacology and the procedures we would be implementing in nursing. It was essential to overcome my phobia, once and for all. My math switches being rusty, however, I had to make them operational. My future career as a nurse depends on it. Enter Mr. Hild (pronounced like Wild).
A couple of the nursing programs in the valley require that I have statistics, so with my trusty fifteen dollar calculator by my side and my pal, Trudy; we drove to Rocklin 3-days-per week for 7-weeks. There we met Mr. Hild for the first time. Mr. Hild teaches high school mathematics at Colfax High School and has been teaching at Sierra College for the last two decades. He managed to take this very old phobic math student and turn her into a statistics student. With an approach to teaching from a worksheet and practice method, we were able to drill ourselves through chapter problems, rather than use a textbook. Trudy and I would do the problems repeatedly until we had a good handle on each one. When it came time to take the exams, we were allowed to use our formula sheets and make notes to help us complete the tests. If one practiced as he suggested, one was essentially set up for success on the exams.

Chi squared problems, Poisson distributions, ANOVA problems, binomial probabilities…yeah, I know that stuff now and can solve not only for “x”, but I can find the mean, median, mode and standard deviation of a bunch of numbers. I can draw a bell curve in my sleep and no more bad dreams.

Teaching is about showing your students the map, giving them tools to unlock learning and giving pupils what they need to be successful. Ultimately, when a teacher can unlock the doors and turn on switches, then that teacher has created a learning environment where a student can be successful and overcome obstacles in learning. For the first time in 40 years, I enjoyed a math class and obtained grades I never thought possible. Mr. Hild, you opened rusty doors in an old brain that was closed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It finally makes sense. Thanks a bunch!

1 comment:

tom mcgowan said...

What are the odds that 'X' gets the square, on Hollywood Squares? I always rooted for the 'O'!