My journey to becoming a mathematics teacher

Discover the inspiring journey of Duygu Reçani, a passionate math teacher breaking barriers and fostering a love for mathematics among her students.

Illustration by Elham Ghaedi

I have been working in this profession for four years now, and I am still deeply passionate about it. In this article, I will briefly share my journey of choosing to become a math teacher.

Here it goes.

So, my mathematical journey started in my sophomore year (second year) of high school after a disagreement with my math teacher. Sounds a bit silly, right? At the time, I had various career preferences in mind, such as becoming an English teacher, architect, banker, and more. I also enjoyed mathematics, but due to the prevailing stigma that mathematics is a challenging subject, I never envisioned myself pursuing it as a career.

I vividly remember the day we were learning about proofs of trigonometric identities during a math class. After solving a couple of exercises, my teacher wrote a challenging homework problem on the board, offering the highest grade, which is a 5 in my country, to whoever could solve it correctly. That night, I scribbled on papers, making several attempts, until I finally solved the problem! I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait for the next day to show my work to my teacher. However, just before our math class the following day, one of my friends asked me if I had completed the homework for extra credit. With my good-hearted nature and love for helping others, I said yes and even shared my homework with him. 🙂 Some time later, he informed me that he received the extra credit, but to my surprise, he never mentioned that it wasn’t his work when he turned it in. During our math period, the teacher asked if any of us had completed the homework. Naturally, I was eager to show him my work, but when I did, he accused me of copying the homework from another student in a different class! I felt a mix of sadness and anger and decided to tell my teacher the truth about what had happened. Unfortunately, my teacher didn’t believe me and added, “Girls don’t have the logical ability to solve that kind of exercise.” I found that remark very insulting and responded angrily, “I will prove to you that girls can excel in any field they choose.” That was the day I decided to become a math teacher.

Two years after finishing high school, I began my university studies at the “Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics,” majoring in Teaching Mathematics. I graduated from university in five years and, within six weeks of becoming a graduate math teacher, started my first job at a private high school in Tetovo, North Macedonia. I had to teach in English, even though my mother tongue is Turkish, and I had studied in Macedonian. In a short period of time, I established strong connections with my students because I (1) was very approachable and (2) always tried to make them enjoy math rather than dread it. I taught them by sharing extensive information about mathematics and solving numerous exercises with them. This approach boosted my students’ confidence, and they started to develop a love for math with each passing day.

This year, I had the privilege of witnessing my first group of students graduate. For me, this was a personal achievement and a source of great pride. In conclusion, I want to emphasize that I am the type of teacher who becomes a friend to my students, enjoys tutoring them in solving challenging math problems, and teaches math by relating it to everyday life. This is part of Humanism in Mathematics—an approach that underscores the importance of human reasoning, understanding, and creativity in the field of mathematics. It values the exploration of mathematical concepts not only for their abstract properties but also for their relevance and applicability in human life and society.

In 2021, I enrolled in a master’s degree program in Mathematics, specializing in ‘Mathematics Education for Elementary and High Schools,’ and I hope to complete it soon. My journey has not been easy; in fact, it has been filled with obstacles. However, those obstacles have ultimately shaped me into the woman I am today.

Duygu Reçani

Math teacher at 'MAARiF International Schools-Tetovo, North Macedonia.

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