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Some dinosaurs are left in math education


I have always resisted writing letters to the editor but this is where I start.

I am 87 years old. In grade school I had two math teachers - Mrs. Morris and Miss Luckey. How they managed to accomplish that over 80 years ago is amazing. But hey instilled a love of math in me then.

In prep school I was fortunate to be assigned to Miss Marie Becker for three of my four high school years. That was not so amazing – Marie Becker could have played fullback for the Seattle Seahawks. You did all math work in ink (no ballpoint pens allowed then – they were messy). Errors in homework were to be rewritten and turned in the next day. This included drawings in geometry – try that in ink. She had the respect of her students, both boys and girls.

Miss Becker once commented that the boys from the choir looked so nice wearing ties when there were performances. From then on the guys carried a tie in their notebook to put on before going into her class.

By our senior year there were only three girls left in the two solid geometry-calculus classes. This was not because we were the only three who could handle it – in those days very few careers were available for women who were math majors. The rest saw the handwriting on the wall and moved to other majors. The guidance counselors were right.

I ended up teaching math for 25 years, ranging from grade school to high school classes. At one point I won a grant for a program teaching math in grade school where the students were assigned to the math classes based on their ability rather than their grade level. It was used in my district for a number of years.

I thought that the prejudices that held me back had been lost in the dusty past – especially when I discovered that the young woman next door has a five-year full-ride scholarship at MIT in Nanoscience, (look that up, Mr. Board President).

But evidently there are still some dinosaurs left in the public domain, even though women are now accepted in all areas that require a facility in math.

Toni Kellers

Retired Math teacher

Semi-retired Farmer