That is All: In Mr. Turners class math adds up to fun

First Posted: 5/5/2010

“Don’t know much about algebra …”
Sam Cooke

There’s no denying it any more: Math is important.
First lady Michelle Obama says so, and so it must be true.
Doesn’t matter that I hate math. Doesn’t matter that a lot of people hate math. It is important.
You hear that, children? Math is important.
Mrs. Obama told middle and high school science students on Monday that the nation will need their skills and enthusiasm to prosper.
The first lady visited the Energy Departments National Science Bowl in Washington and read bonus questions during the middle school championship match.
We want young people energized in the way that you all are, because we know that American brainpower in science and math has always driven this countrys prosperity, she told the group after the two winning teams received their trophies. We are going to need you.
Mrs. Obama said the nation depends on the next generation of innovation and math is vital.
I am allergic to math. I loathe math. It makes my head hurt and I just don’t like it.
Awhile back I went public with my dislike for math in a column called “A class you can count on,” about a new North Carolina law that creates a council to oversee financial literacy programs in schools.
I blamed my hatred for math on cold and boring math teachers from a long time ago, in classrooms far, far away.
A short time after that column ran, I received a thick envelope in the mail from someone who had clipped out my column and highlighted certain parts including this line: “I just never had a teacher who could make math fun, enjoyable, important.”
Too bad I never had a teacher like Mr. John Turner, who teaches an Adult Basic Education math class at Robeson Community College in Lumberton.
The envelope contained several letters two handwritten from some of Mr. Turner’s math students.
“I too hated math,” wrote L. Davis. “I didn’t finish High School. I quit in the ninth grade. This was a very stupid thing to do. I have struggled most of my early years just to get a pay check. I often wonder if I had had someone who took an interest in my learning, where would I be right now?”
This student was 40 years old and enrolled in the adult ed program at RCC.
“I was scared to death … But I went anyway. The minute I walked in the door I was welcomed with open arms by a teacher who cares, Davis wrote. I have a wonderful teacher named Mr. Turner. He makes sure you understand everything he teaches. He never leaves anyone behind. He makes math fun. If I had a teacher like him in High School there’s no telling where I would be.”
Another student, Ashley Liles, wrote to me about her own struggles with math and how Mr. Turner came to her rescue.
“I owe everything I know about math to the greatest teacher, Mr. Turner. He makes learning fun and enjoyable,” she wrote.
Student Jalisa Douglas wrote: “I hated math too. I hated math so much that I gave up on school completely.
She said she didn’t want her lack of education to hold her back so she enrolled in the RCC adult ed program.
“There I found Mr. T … Mr. T taught me the key to math formulas. He made it fun and easy to learn. A lot different from high school.”
I spoke with Turner on the phone this week and asked him what he says to people who say they hate math.
“I tell them, you are going to use math every day in your life and you have to look at math in a fun way,” he said.
Turner said he is very encouraged by the first lady’s address to students on Monday, and agreed with the value of math.
“We use it every day.”
I say three cheers for Mr. Turner, and other teachers like him who make learning fun and manage to break through to their students.
That is all.
Managing Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at 272-6122 or at [email protected]

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