I think it is so important for teaching to start from the beginning with care and affection, being treated with love rather than as a punishment

Violeta Niebla

Friday, 17 March 2023, 12:40


I've been failing maths since my last year at primary school. That summer was the first that I spent going to extra classes every morning so that I wouldn't have to retake the whole year. I passed the exam in September and chose pure sciences at secondary school so I could be in the same class as my best friend.

I found physics and chemistry really hard work, but I had to cheat at maths all the way through. My best friend really was my best friend and we swapped papers in every exam.

On 8 March I was driving and listening to the radio. All day they were talking about women in science, the lack of motivation due to a variety of factors, such as the lack of examples to follow, gender stereotypes, unconscious bias and structural barriers.

I think about my experience and, except for the wonderful teacher I had at night school (something I had to go through when I decided I wanted to go to university) where I got top marks all the time, I failed with all the others as they didn't make maths attractive.

They made it so I was scared when I walked into the class. Scared of the blackboard, scared of the numbers, scared of the subject. However the woman at night school taught maths in another light. Thanks to her, I lost my insecurity and my ineptitude in mathematics.

Today I can say that my work is 50 per cent words and 50 per cent numbers. I do my household and work accounts and I'm addicted to Excel spreadsheets.

Listening to the radio, I got the impression that what happened to me won't happen to girls in the future.

I like to think of the efforts that are being made and the paths being opened to make sure talent is not going unnoticed. Talent such as that of those elderly women who can't read or write but still manage to administer their household finances.

These numbers have nothing to do with academic study and everything to do with survival. They are our lances and arrows. Contemporary hunting tools. For the most extreme survival.

I think it is so important for teaching to start from the beginning with care and affection, being treated with love rather than as a punishment.

Now I have a lock of grey hair on my forehead it's good to think that all that happened to me in the 80s and 90s. That I am of another generation and it doesn't happen any more. That teaching has to help you to shine, to find your diamond. And teach you to do sums without having to swap exam papers.

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