Another memory triggered of a very long time ago; a time when “you don’t know what you don’t know”, that might or might not have made a difference in my chosen career path. For reasons that are not clear, my older sister and younger brother were both excellent with math. I say “not clear” because neither of our parents nor any of our grandparents had an interest in math beyond the basics. I was fine up through then as well; straight A student in everything until algebra. Herein lies a significant point. We had junior high of 7-9th grades rather than middle school. There were two math teachers. The female teacher, and that was unusual in those days, and the male. My sister, who was two years ahead of me, had the female and she was of course glad to have a female student who embraced math. Now, even at that age, my sister knew she wanted to be a scientist and math was a building block/companion rather than an end to itself. By either coincidence or perhaps fate if one chooses to go at it from that angle, the science teacher at that time was also female. She very much took my sister on as a protege. As you have probably already surmised, I had the other math teacher who was one of those who didn’t expect students to like math. I was taken aback to suddenly have a subject I wasn’t good at and couldn’t seem to grasp. Turning to my sister was the natural thing and that was a situation where she couldn’t understand why I couldn’t understand and our “tutoring” did not go well. We come to the other part of, “it’s okay for girls not to do well in math and science”, and I had straight A’s in everything else, was an avid reader, and already showing a desire to write. We knew nothing of different learning styles to realize that there can be more than one approach to teaching a subject such as math. So, from 7th grade on, I followed the usual path of taking only minimum math through high school and college.
I liked the concept of engineering, but thought no more about it. On the other hand, while my brother easily did well in math, he briefly tried for electrical engineering to satisfy the parental urging for a “practical career”. His passion was theater and he dropped out, did a number of things for an extended time before he made it back to college; not in a math-focused way. So, when I see great engineering projects and feel a bit of a twinge, perhaps if I had help in conquering math, it might not have made a difference anyway.