October 18, 2010
Till this day, I remember my parents teaching me. My mother was the main tutor. She listened to memorized lessons and assisted me with the memorization. She was very good with poetry and theater and she advised me to put the tone and I always made it to theater auditions, gaining the coveted roles in school plays. She sat with a pink multiplication tables and reviewed my tables constantly. She made me recite all my conjugaisons. She was a busy mother with three other children so she didn't have the time to assist me with the exercises, or the essay writings, all the applied learning. However she sat patiently and gave me the dictation or listened to me read the essays out loud. Today, I sometimes read my blog writings out loud to her.
I was in the French system and her French was good to a certain extent so she often found me tutors, especially in the subjects I liked least: sciences. Those tutorials only confirmed my further dislike for sciences.
The only science I excelled in was mathematics. My favorite tutor was my father. My father, especially in those days, had a thin knowledge of French. I would always explain the instructions for the mathematical exercise and we would then get started. Mathematics is a universal language. However, my father's French got stronger with each and every "probleme" (problem solving exercise). He still claims that "problem solving" is part of the French cultural psyche. In France, people often turn to that educational experience to begin their day.
The first thing my father did when we studied mathematics was to clear the desk, to have draft paper ready, to have a ruler, an eraser and most important: a sharp pencil. He would then tell me to take it easy, he taught me not to fret in front of mathematical axioms or geometrical instructions. One step at a time was his motto. Mathematics is an exact science he still says. It is either right or wrong. A unique solution.
Perhaps I like mathematics because I associate it with paternal attention. Evidently his methodology worked. I excelled in the subject and when I prepared for my baccalaureate exam in mathematics, I requested the assistance of a math tutor other than my father who had possibly forgotten that high level of mathematics. I wanted to maximize my grade in a subject I was very good at. Indeed that is another thing I learned while studying mathematics: if you are good in a subject, focus your attention on that subject because you can progress much more than you ever could in a subject that you are bad at (like physics in my case).