The math symbol theta in colors of blue on white background

Suzza Silver

Suzza Silver in front of building on Portland State University Campus
Suzza Silver at Portland State

I’m the writer with a mathematical muse. I love words, numbers, dreaming big & helping others. I believe that whatever you imagine, you can become. My pronouns are They/Them/Their.

Do you have a math phobia? You are in good company. It is an experience that many people have all over the world according to researchers at the University of Chicago. This article also tells us something important, some interventions can help. It isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. You aren’t bad at math but you might believe you are because of your experiences with math anxiety. This New York Times article also discusses a study where children used a story-time app about mathematics. These children increased their skills more so than the control group. It was the children of math-anxious parents who showed the most improvement.

My own experiences with math anxiety led me to write this blog. People don’t realize how much I struggle with mathematics even though I love it. I was repeatedly told by my parents and teachers not to seriously follow mathematics because I did not show aptitude in the subject. And every year I fought with them to get to the next level of math. Going on to pass AP Calculus in my senior year of high school.

I don’t love math because I am good at it. I love it because it pushes my limits. With everything that I learn, I feel that I understand the universe a little more. Some achievement in math comes with a large reward for me. Slowness and anxiety are not the same as your math ability. That is what I want people to understand.

I think people can change their feelings about mathematics. We do that by making it personally meaningful for them. Get people invested in mathematics through what they care about. If you are wondering how just look up some of your favorite subjects on YouTube adding mathematics to your query. I bet someone has made a video about it.

This is what happened to me when I started watching Numberphile.

Here is my story.

Overcoming Math Anxiety

I am the person least likely to enjoy mathematics. In fourth grade, I faced a crisis. Unable to keep up with my peers my teacher recommended that I repeat this year of math. Similarly to Ace Rimmer, repeating fourth-grade mathematics made me. It allowed me to catch up and eventually surpass my peers in algebra.

Ace Rimmer explains his origin.

At that time, I don’t think there was any other subject in school that I was afraid of. It was mathematics that would make me break out into a sweat. Like my parents, I had math anxiety. Strangely enough, this allowed me to get along with them peacefully when it came to my education. I was expected to do poorly in math. Struggling through it. Yet, I gained math confidence by finding a strategy to learn mathematics through the strength of my skills in writing and language.

I was told by my parents and math teachers to not pursue the sciences. Even though, at that time, I wanted to work for Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The first Mars Rover launched when I was in high school. I was also inspired by reading Stephen Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time.” I seriously cry every time I watch the film, “The Theory of Everything.” My feelings run deep.

I did take physics as an undergraduate but I flunked out in my first year. I switched my major to psychology, which I don’t regret. Yet, curiously, I did not stop studying mathematics. I got as far as Linear Algebra. This caused my father and I to fight over the classes that I was taking. It got so bad that I didn’t talk to my dad for a year. I got student loans and finished my psychology degree at Humboldt State.

I thought that was the end for me. Until I started watching Numberhphile. Can you believe there are over 4 million people who watch videos about mathematics? This one channel got me back in touch with my feels about math. I finally told my best friend, a math tutor, how I felt. She told me:

I have never loved anything as much as you love mathematics.

It was such a relief. I didn’t have to hide my true feelings anymore. I realized mathematicians were people like me.

Discovering the Beauty and Joy of Mathematics

I bought this URL for $11 on GoDaddy a few years before I started writing here. I did not feel qualified to talk about mathematics. Some of that fear was due to imposter syndrome. I just thought that I should give this domain to a school or organization that could do more with it. Then in 2018, I got the idea to write non-fiction accounts about my experiences learning to love mathematics. You don’t often hear from people who have experienced math anxiety and went on to love the subject.

I hope that you will join me on this journey. You can read more about the blog’s mission on the about page. I’ve tried to give some concrete points about the type of content you will see here. Please take the time to look around and read a little bit. That will give you some idea if you want to subscribe or not. I am excited about the opportunity to meet you!