The 3 Students

Illustration by Nino Mekanarishvili

Three high school students who have worked extremely hard to break the stigma that one is either good at maths or not. They share their experiences of failure and triumph, and how their decision to persevere and asking for help, made all the difference.

To be honest, I am not the biggest maths fan. And I am definitely not the greatest at it. I had a very bad experience with maths in Grade 8 and my first term in Grade 9. I was failing very badly and I really wanted to say: “I can’t do it, I give up”.

I always thought it was the teacher’s fault and that they didn’t teach it right. But I then realised that that was not it. It was my own problem and I had to fix it.

So with a lot of extra lessons, hard work and help from the greatest maths teacher on the planet, I was able to go from an average of 25% for the term to 72%.

There is one more thing to keep in mind and that is that you should find a healthy balance between school work, extra maths, family time and some sort of outdoor activity.

So for all of those out there thinking that you can’t do maths, making excuses for getting a bad mark and on the verge of giving up? Trust me, do not do it. Ask for as much help as you can and take every single opportunity that you get to improve your maths knowledge and understanding.

Alejandro Posthuma

Grade 9

I’ve had attention deficit disorder and anxiety my entire life, meaning I had low confidence and almost zero concentration skills. I was called an idiot and stupid and I was told that I would never achieve my goals because of it. This year I moved to a new school and I am the happiest I had been in a while. I felt safe, accepted and supported in the new environment. They were aware of my difficulties learning mathematics and my anxiety towards it, but they never gave up on me.

At the time of my first test of the year, I experienced some trauma which made my journey a bit harder. I failed that test and it broke my confidence. However, I refused to let it stop me from reaching my goal. The next term I studied every day. But even though I had put in so much effort, I only achieved a mark of 30%. This is when I realised that I need more help. In the third term I attended extra classes and private lessons every day. For the first test we wrote that term, I had so much confidence because I had a support system that believed in me. I achieved 60% and I was proud of myself and everyone around me was too. We then wrote a tutorial to help us prepare for our exam, I achieved 84%. I was finally where I wanted to be, but still I kept pushing. I continued to attend extra lessons and private lessons and then, when writing my maths exam, I felt incredible because I could sit and write my exam knowing I had come so far already.

Battling all of the challenges that come along with mental difficulties and high school itself, maths can feel impossible. But if you work every day and get a support system, then you can achieve your goal. Don’t just say that it’s impossible and that you can’t do it. You can and you will achieve your goal. 

Mathematics is not an instant thing, it requires constant work and focus. So even if you don’t get it the first time, get up again and try even harder and prove that you can do it.

Isabella Young

Grade 9

Throughout my high school career I have always struggled with maths. I never achieved my full potential when it came to tests and exams, and it often felt that I couldn’t do maths or that maths just wasn’t for me. I was even considering moving to maths literacy at the beginning of Grade 11. However, I persevered and put in the time and effort to better my maths mark. In order to do this I had to change my mindset that “maths wasn’t for me” and allow myself to be more open minded when it came to mathematics. I started doing this by doing a small amount of maths nearly every day, as I believe practice makes perfect. I also have an extra maths tutor that I see once a week, where we go over the work I covered in class.

To stay on track with my maths I make sure I practice as much as possible and when I am battling with a certain topic, I try to resolve the problem as soon as I can, rather than leaving the problem to deal with later on. This can be by asking my tutor, friends or my maths teacher for help. I find if I deal with the problem sooner rather than later it reduces my stress and helps me to feel confident about my maths.

Luke Potterton

Grade 11

Illustration by Liani Malherbe

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