How a high schooler in rural NC overcame math anxiety

Published 4:16 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

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(Editor’s Note: Carter Buhler is a 14-year-old freshman at Gates County High School. He has always loved school and has maintained Honor Roll throughout his education.)

By Carter Buhler

Some people are just born good at math. For some, like my older sister, it’s their favorite subject in school. However, for a lot of people — myself included — math isn’t something that is easy for us. To be honest, math was one of my least favorite subjects. It doesn’t come easy to me at all.

Carter Buhler says the MATHia program from Carnegie Learning has given him the confidence and ability to solve math problems. Contributed Photo

So, how does someone like me get better at math without disliking it even more? How do you? What if seeing a ton of math problems on paper just overwhelms you? What if you need more help or more of an explanation of the steps to get to the right solution?

I’ve got your solution, but to the kids who are in doubt, just hear me out. To the parents or schools considering this, as a student and a teenager, this is the way to go.

In middle school, I was introduced to a math program called MATHia from the company Carnegie Learning. At first, I wasn’t excited about having to do math in class and now online. Then I thought to myself, what if this works? Maybe this will help me get better grades in math. I knew I didn’t like math, but I was trying to be open-minded about the program. I like computers a lot so that made me a little curious to try it too.

Since I was doing the program at school, I will explain what the online program was like for me. Also, keep in mind that this was for eighth-grade middle school. During class, I was able to grab a computer to use at my desk. My teacher would then give us our passwords and usernames. Before you even begin, you get to make an avatar of yourself. Once inside, you can open up all the lessons you need to do.

Programs can be “Progress Lessons” or “Checkpoint Lessons.” When you have a lesson at the top right corner next to the “I’m Done” through your work, the circles will fill up. However, if you get one wrong, the progress on the circles will decrease. This really made me want to strive to get those circles filled!

I knew I needed to take my time and read the question and think about how to solve the equation. I noticed that I had been rushing a lot of my math work in school, and that may have been why I didn’t understand everything so well. The progress portion really made me slow down and think.

The next way lessons can be done is called “Checkpoint lessons.” During these lessons you are given a certain number of pages to finish correctly, if you get everything right you move on to the next page. Once you’ve gotten to the last page of the lesson, you click the “I’m done” button. From there, you move on to the next unit.

You work through different units, each containing a different number of lessons. Units could be Geometry, Pythagorean theorem, and many more depending on your grade level. Lessons may contain charts, graphs, videos, diagrams, a calculator, and even photos explaining what to do. You are never left just trying to figure it out on your own. When you get a question wrong, there is a hint button you can click to try and get some help. If you still get the question wrong, this program will break the solution down step by step to show you what you need to do. This was something I am not ashamed to say that I had to use. I never felt like I was overwhelmed or didn’t have the right amount of help needed to understand any of my lessons.

On the MATHia homepage, where it shows your avatar and lessons, you will see a big circle that shows your “total progress.” Seeing this made me want to get it done even more. Plus that means there’s less to do. Anytime I had free time in school I would log in and just start doing my lessons. That’s how much of a change it made in me. I went from not liking math at all — dreading it actually — to logging in to get as much done as I could.

I felt smarter and more confident. I watched my classwork, test grades, and math grade go up, too. I was even able to help other kids in my class with their math work!

In my middle school, I was the first to finish the program. A friend of mine was the second. We were both really happy about it. I wasn’t doing it to get any attention, awards, or recognition. I just liked doing MATHia and kept doing it until I was done.

I didn’t realize the full impact of the program until I started thinking about how big the transition is from middle to high school. What comes next is college! When I started to talk to my mother about what I wanted to do in college, I quickly learned that math is a key foundation. I would like to work in the computer science field and maybe oceanography as well. Both of these careers require a very good education in math and sciences.

I’m no longer worried about math in the ways I was before. I know that if I struggle again, or just want to enhance my learning again, MATHia is a program for all grade levels. I know a lot of kids my age don’t want to do math, but just give this program a try. Doing a little extra work is better than not doing well in school. Just see what it can do for you.

Buhler closed out his story by stating he strives to obtain an academic scholarship to attend a university to major in Computer Sciences and minor in Oceanography. He would also like to serve in the US Coast Guard or Navy Reserves.

“I’m very blessed and thankful that God has given me all the opportunities I’ve had so far and all that is yet to come,” he concluded.