Olivia Forte

Math is one of the single most communicable languages in the world. No matter creed, color, religion, ethnicity, or any other number of identifiers, math discriminates not. It is constant, fluent, fluid. It’s one of the most affluent and admirable studies. Thus, one might understand my previous hesitancy and anxiety to perform well in such a subject. I’m an English whiz. I manipulate words for subjective interpretation; I do NOT do so with math, the art of concrete outcomes and answers. I’ve passed every English class with high As. Math, on the other hand, I’ve worked a bit harder at. This baffling, ever-constant subject was a mystery to me. It seemed untouchable, undeniably impossible to excel at. You see, up to this year my math teachers were almost always men. Up until recently, I believed there to be a glass ceiling barring women from the math field. These men were confident, swaggering professionals, without a doubt in their mind that they could achieve what they were meant to. But, I’ve since seen the fallacy in my interpretation of math as a man’s field. Math is blind.

My eighth grade honors math teacher was the single most impactful figure of my impressionable middle school years. Tirelessly I worked to please my teacher. Because, for the first time, math seemed achievable. Math was defined as constant, consistent, continuous. It was illustrated as a puzzle. Some problems had more pieces than others, but they could be solved, formulated, integrated into a single summative answer. And more than that, math was defined as anything but discriminatory. It was a subject free of bias. History, English, even the sciences have been historically scripted to be suited to one gender over another be it in context or in the classroom.

I owe a lot to my teacher. The one who made it clear prejudices held no platform in the subject of arithmetic. She made it abundantly clear that I am just as capable as the next person. My teacher accomplished something I had previously missed: the only person with the power to jeopardize ability to accomplish anything is myself. My teacher completely demolished my idea of female inferiority. It was preposterous! Gender doesn’t mean anything to a school subject. Further than that, she is the reason I strive for all I do, without hesitation or reluctance due to such simplistic, irrelevant factors. And, not only is math blind, intelligence is, too. Brains are complex works capable of calculating enormous sums, integrating multiple puzzle pieces at once, resolving, solving, and evolving simultaneously. They learn. That’s a feat in itself.

I shall never again indulge the thought that I am any less able to do something than another for a reason so shallow as gender. My teacher, Mrs. Gray, never did. She didn't compromise herself for anyone or anything. She was a proud, competent woman with zero tolerance for nonsense (ie, my belief in gender being a factor in mathematical ability). This same school of thought has also driven me to take my fourth year of math in high school, voluntarily, in AP Calculus. To break it down in mathematical terms, female ≠ inherently intellectually inferior. Math is blind, as it should be. There is nothing to stop me from expressing myself to my full capacity. In math and all other areas of life, I am competent and capable. A valuable lesson to take into the world, to college, to my career. Math may be a subject of measurement, but the impact Mrs. Gray made on my life is immeasurable. I feel that much more invincible in a sometimes uninviting world. My learned perception has everything to do with it, Mrs. Gray has everything to do with it.

Olivia Forte