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From Math-Loather to Math-Lover

I’d like to introduce a story about a woman who once used to be a math loather and became an engineer professor and the creator of the course which is one of the most popular in Coursera.

Her name is Barbara Oakley. She flunked at Math at her middle and high school. But She was a language and history lover. She enlisted in the army and became a ROTC, studying Russian language. This was how she was able to study a foreign language for free. But after she finished the school she was assigned to the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a second lieutenant. She had to lead the engineers without any knowledge about engineering.

This is how she explained her situation in her book, ‘A Mind for Numbers’.

“I saw that the officers and enlisted members who were technically competent were in demand. They were problem solvers of the first order, and their work helped everyone accomplish the mission.

I reflected on the progress of my career and realized that I’d followed my inner passions without also being open to developing new ones. As a consequence, I’d inadvertently pigeonholed myself. If I stayed in the army, my poor technical know-how would always leave me a second-class citizen. “

“A purist might argue that I’d distinguished myself in both my studies and my service and could find much better work, but that purist would be unaware of how tough the job market can sometimes be.”

Fortunately she had the GI Bill money to offset the costs of her another schooling and started at the University of Washington to study engineering. In the beginning, she couldn’t catch up her young peers. She even registered for remedial Trigonometry class. Her phase was slow but eventually she picked up the speed, majored in multi-subjects, acquired PHD, and became an engineering professor.

Through her experience and studying of neurology, she understood what is learning and accumulated the knowledge of learning and made a course about learning. It became the renowned course ‘Learning How to Learn’.

Barbara is the living example of the from math-loather to math-lover.

I’d like to recommend to read the book, ‘A Mind for Numbers’, her story and study about learning.


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