Maths with Foreigners

Remember this post about Margaret? I had only begun to have my eyes open to what it means to be going to an International school. It is so humbling and continues to be.

While last semester I had group work for all four of my classes, this semester I was not expecting any. Let me tell you my classes and you try to guess which class would have group work:

Intro to Technology: Excel

Interpersonal Communications

Content Creation

English and Writing

Math for the Real World

Did the title for this post give it away? If you guessed Math (or Maths as I like to call it for my English ancestors) you would be correct. I was a bit shocked and worried when I saw our group list. There was no one with a United States prefix in front of their number, which meant juggling time zones and more language barriers.

Le sigh…

Then my old group-mate Nycollas WhatsApped me. (WhatsApp is a free way to text internationally.)

“Looks like we are together again!” he sent, along with a screen shot of our names together in a group.

I smiled. I sent him back a message saying “Hurray! Are you good at Math? Don’t you think it’s weird we have groups for this class?”

“I don’t know why we have groups,” he answered. “I am no good at Math.”

Nycollas is a great kid. He is Brazilian, he lives with his family still. He is engaged to the love of his life and she is off serving a mission for a time. He is keeping busy by going to school. I am like a proud mom with him. We struggled through our Advertising class together and complained about our Analytics class. He is a great, hard-working young man. I want to call him a kid, because my kid is his age, but I have to acknowledge that he is a young man. Anyway, I knew no matter what, Nycollas and I could weather Math group together.

Weeks went by and out of seven potential group members they all dropped the class except Mario. Mario seemed to be on top of things, making sure our group had a meeting time, which happened to be 10:30pm his time.

“OH no,” I messaged him, “that is really late. Should we try for another day?”

“It’s OK,” he assured me, “in Italy we stay up late.”

Mario is a father of three, his children’s ages line up with mine. We have lamented together on the price of Taylor Swift and Harry Styles tickets, and talk about late night walks with our dogs.

So our surviving members are myself, an Italian, and a Brazilian. We have met twice to work on assignments and each time I am so impressed with their English. I am so impressed they are taking University level classes in English! Honestly, there are concepts that are really tricky in our math class, even for an English speaker, and I think of them navigating. Yesterday we were coming up with a menu for a college student and I was telling Nycollas that we eat canned beans here.

“Canned? Like, sweet?!” he grimaced.

“No, not candy, cans…like a jar but out of metal.”

“OH, that is better.” He laughed.

Mario and Nycollas are a joy. They are hard working, they love their families. They are both working and going to school. It just makes my heart swell to see this drive and “can-do” spirit, and when something is hard I have even more motivation to push through.

A word about my Math class, it has been manageable, although I am stuck on conversion units right now. I have a tutoring session slotted for Friday afternoon. Exciting times, my friends.

If you’ve made it this far you’ve earned this pic of my dog, who’s face is demonstrating my confusion when asked what conversion methods to use in a word problem.



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