Life Lessons and Mathematics

June 27, 2019 | Education | Dennis Herrera

I started teaching math in February 2018. I was in one of Professor Jackson’s classes, and he announced to the class he was looking for tutors to volunteer at College Place High School. I’ve always been interested in education, so I gladly offered to go with him. We went every Tuesday for two hours. The teacher taught the material, and then the remaining time we walked around the room and asked if anybody needed help.

Teaching those more basic math skills came naturally. These students were learning the material for the first time. It’s not second nature to everyone. I made sure to gauge my teaching to their level in a way that I was not assuming they knew everything already.

Especially with math, many people have a hard time with the concepts. And it’s important because the core concepts build on each other. If they don’t know one concept, they’re going to get left behind on the other ones, and it’s really hard to catch up if they don’t know the previous material.

About a month after I started tutoring, they offered me a job four days a week, Monday through Thursday. At one point I was doing that, and I was doing peer tutoring for the university while taking 16 credits. I was like, “I’ll try to see how much I can handle. At the end it was getting pretty stressful, but I was testing myself to see how much I could load onto myself. It definitely gave me a respect for those who juggle work and school full time.”

Teaching was something I was always interested in. I started off majoring in math because it was just something I was good at. Then one of my professors suggested that I consider majoring in computer science. Since I tested out of Spanish and the math and computer science majors were pretty well-connected, my advisor said if I took 16 credits every quarter I could do both majors in four years. I just had to not fail anything.

After graduation I’m going to complete an internship as a developer at Integra, which is part of Smith Technologies. They mainly work with the tech side of handling big data for pharmacies.

I have the ability to learn new things. In my field, that’s exciting. A lot of people are scared of the unknown, but to me it is exciting because anything’s possible. It’s easy to get stuck in a routine. Sometimes routines are fine, but it’s nice to know not everything lasts because you can always build something better or do something better.

I love to teach. The ability to help someone learn something is one of the greatest feelings. Ultimately, I do one day want to teach. I think once I get established financially, then I can settle down and teach.

Students often ask about math, “Why are we learning this? I’m not going to use the Pythagorean Theorem anywhere in my life.” I guess there are several answers to that. One is that math is more of a mindset. You’re learning how to solve problems; you’re not just learning how to plug in numbers. It’s like you’re solving little puzzles. A lot of people get to a problem, feel intimidated and immediately give up. I like that math actually makes you think about the problem. You have to use what you know. And experiment too. They’re just numbers. If you do something and you don’t get the right solution, you can always just go back and try something else. Mathematics helps you face problems better.