Esther Ciganda

Apr 10, 2022

How Math Plays A Role In The Life Of A Daughter of Immigrants

Math as you learned may be different than the math they teach in schools today. And it may be different than the way it’s taught in other countries around the world.

Once I learned English in elementary school, I excelled in all subjects. Yet, when I had math homework, I ended up getting confused. Teachers taught us to set up and calculate math problems. But when I asked my parents for help, I got confused.

As I progressed through school, I reached a level of math that was too advanced for my parents. They only went to school until they were 14. So, I didn’t ask them for help and I didn’t get confused again.

Yet, I wondered often why their math was different.

Years later, I would find out.

One summer, when I was a Biology & Chemistry teacher, I participated in a science and math consortium. One of the courses was about Math and English Language Learners. In that course, they showed us math problems from around the world. The answers were always the same. But not the process to solve each problem.

BINGO! Mystery solved!

My immigrant parents were like these student examples.

They did math differently. What a light bulb moment as a teacher and as a daughter of immigrants.

The math course was a blessing. 

My colleagues and I were being taught to look out for our students who might struggle with math problems in our class. But this helped me make sense of what had happened to me at home, and it made me more sensitive to my learners. Many of my colleagues had no clue. It was a win for them as well.

Too often people make assumptions that everyone does things in the same way they do things. There's also a big problem when someone assumes someone is not capable because they do things differently.

As you continue in life, remember these 3 things:

  • Learn to appreciate the differences that exist in our world.

  • Choose to stop and learn the differences. 

  • You may find a better option than the one you know or you may help someone else learn a new way to do things as well.

When you do these things and keep an open mind, it's a win-win for all.

Esther Ciganda

Multilingual + Multipassionate Veteran Teacher writing about my pivot to Edupreneur | Daughter of Basque Immigrants & Farmers | Podcaster | 🧠 tumor survivor