I walked into the classroom slowly, yawning as I searched for a seat. It was eight in the morning, and I was starting my first-ever dual-enrollment college class at Florence Darlington Tech. The class also happened to be in my least favorite subject—math.
I was very anxious about the class because I knew that math was not my strongest subject. I was a good student, but math homework always took me hours to complete and I often felt like it was written in a foreign language. I also knew that my grades in my college classes really mattered—as I sought to apply to both college and grad school in the future.
The professor walked us through the syllabus and explained that we would all use a software called MyLabMath to complete our homework. I clicked through the first few lessons and rolled my eyes— “Good grief,” I whispered to my brother. “This is going to be so much work—I don’t have time for this.” He laughed and said “Come on, Grace. It’ll be fine.”
The learning tool that worked
The semester rolled along, and MyLabMath and I spent a LOT of time together. Two days a week, I went to my 8 a.m. math class, and then I would walk down to the college’s math hub to start my homework. Our professor promised all of us that we would get extra credit based on how many hours we spent in the math hub working on our homework, and I was more than happy to take her up on that offer!
I completed every practice problem set, and many times I would go back and do the practice problem sets a second, third, or fourth time. I clicked through each explanation about how a problem worked, took notes, asked my professor and the college’s math tutors hundreds of questions, and did my very best to understand each new concept. Some concepts came naturally. Others, like matrices, were a bit of a hurdle. MyLabMath was an invaluable tool because it enabled me to practice problems as many times as I wanted, identify which parts I did not understand, and ask questions in order to improve my work.
The end of the semester arrived and I walked out of the final with an A. I was shocked—I genuinely did not expect to do very well in the class. My professor stopped me as I was walking out of the classroom and said something even more surprising: “Grace, would you be interested in becoming a math tutor next semester?” I accidentally let out a laugh, stopped myself, and said: “Are you serious? I don’t know why you would want me to tutor anyone in math!” She explained that I had developed a thorough understanding of the subject material and had one of the highest grades in the class—exactly what she was hoping for in her tutors.
While this is a truly humbling experience, I will admit that I did not tutor anyone in math the following semester. Life was busy, and becoming a math tutor did not make the cut, shockingly enough. However, I learned a valuable lesson through that conversation with my professor. I learned that hard work and willingness to use available resources can enable me to do well even in subjects that are really difficult! I could have breezed through the practice problems in MyLabMath and never visited the tutoring center, and I would not have learned very much. Because I used both resources intentionally, I learned a lot about math and a lot about how to study well in the future!