Growing up in a small scientific community near Moscow, Russia, I had always left my math homework for the end: it was the easiest one, since it did not involve remembering random facts about cities and countries, spelling rules, historical dates – understanding was enough to do everything quickly. Nowadays, math is singled out as a “hard subject” and diminished to a bunch of formulas to be memorized. Unfortunately, this is true for all levels of education, and I see it even in greater scientific community, where I have been working after earning a PhD degree in Physics from Moscow State University.
I encourage all my students, from preschoolers to PhD candidates in the department of Bioengineering at UW, not to steer away from math “because it is hard”, but to recognize that math is in every task or problem they face – speed of chemical reaction, composition of solution for growing cells, or model of biological process. Understanding the underlying mathematical principles, learning to recognize patterns, and using this ability to simplify the complex problems into smaller, approachable ones – it’s the way to their success in areas that seem far from their school math.
I strongly believe that teaching math in small incremental steps and applying this knowledge to different areas of study and everyday life not only builds good math foundation, but also helps to develop logical thinking abilities, essential in everything we might want to pursue. I volunteer as a math enrichment activities chair at my younger son’s elementary school, hoping to encourage interest in math from early years.
My interests are not limited to science and math. I am a regular subscriber to Seattle Symphony and often spend my evenings at my sewing machine, working on costumes for the International Ballet Theater in Bellevue, where I manage the costume department, because I believe that math makes us better thinkers, but art makes us human.