March 23, 2015
Hello, hello! My name is Vanessa. I am the founder/director of learning and inspiration of The Math Guru, a boutique math and science tutoring studio in uptown Toronto which I started almost four years ago! Why did I decide to do such a thing, you ask? Well, when I was in high school, I actually failed Grade Eleven math twice. Twice! Like many people who haven’t found their educational guru, I hated math - until one day, I found mine.
My parents weren’t too pleased with my whole “I’m just not a math person” thing and so they decided it was time for an educational switch. So, in Grade Twelve I headed to another school – and found my mathematical guru. Not only did my new teacher speak to me in words that made sense, but she inspired me to find the ‘math person’ within – the one who lies within us all. Most importantly, I learned that even though some things don’t come easy, that with enough perseverance and perspective that those things do come – one way or another.
I couldn’t believe that I had wasted such a huge chunk of my teenage life convinced that math just wasn’t something that I was ever going to ‘get’, that this wonderful world of mathematics was simply off limits to some one like me. Totally insane, right?! I became totally obsessed with the fact that there are a TON of people out there who just THINK that – believe that there’s this type of person out there, with mathematical powers or something.
Where do people get this idea in the first place? Why did I, for example, think that I didn’t belong to this group of people?! Was it because I didn’t fit the mathematical stereotype? Because I was artsy? Because I didn’t have glasses and a pocket protector?! Because I totally didn’t know the first thing about video games?! I was obsessed. So, I decided to get a closer look at the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the way that those fields intersect with teenage culture – or don’t! Pretty cool, I know. I ended up publishing a paper titled "Imagining a World Where Paris Hilton Loves Mathematics" and becoming an expert on the ridiculous ways that the media generates and enforces stereotypes of what it means to be a mathematician!
So back to the whole tutoring centre thing. After all that, I decided that my goal in life was to rid math and science of their bad reputation – to salvage those intricately beautiful bodies of knowledge from the clutches of media-induced stereotyping: To make math and science cool. That’s right. Believe it! But first, I wanted to make sure that I did whatever I could to make sure that no one ever ever went through life thinking that they simply weren’t ‘a math person.’ And so…I started The Math Guru, a super chill boutique math and science tutoring studio! TMG is a safe space where tutors are people too, where learning takes place with tea lattes in hand, and where anyone and everyone can learn to love math and science!
Over the years, I have seen an amazing number of math-haters convert to math-lovers, have watched countless teens change their view of what it means to love math, and have had the absolute pleasure of watching those who think that math and science are totally beyond them eventually get their dream job – you know, the one you imagine you’ll have when you’re a kid and you haven’t learned that society views math and science as the domain of a chosen few.
The past few years have given birth to a revolution of sorts: the rebellion against STEM-only-for-men. It takes amazing people, like the two fab ladies behind Princess Awesome, to create an overall culture where femininity can co-exist with intellectual development. Kids, teens, and even adults, rely on culture to guide them in their quest to be whoever they are, and unless we live in a culture where media, pop culture, and yes, even (especially!) fashion, reinforce those messages – those messages will get lost among those louder than them.
It makes me so happy to discover that there are others out there that share my goals and dreams: to live in a world where ultimately, math is cool and cool is whatever makes you happiest!
Guest blogger, vaneSSa, is The Math Guru!