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Curly Zhao

ENGL 133-02

Dr. Jason Peters


Why is 3×2 Read as Three Times Two

“... times cos theta is the double angle formula for sin two theta.” When my trigonometric

teacher ended the class with the sentence, I was confused.

That was my first day transferring into that trigonometric class from a geometry class.

Might sounds like showing off, I did jump up levels for high school math. But the reason was not

that I was too smart a student, but because I was put in the math class that was far lower than my

math levels after the placement test I took the first semester I came to the US in sophomore year.

The placement test only offered problems up to geometry level which I was later putted in, but

my level of math can practically approach calculus due to my high-intensity education on math

back in China. Feeling unsatisfied with just learning stuff like parallel lines, I used my biggest

courage at that time as a one-third fluent speaker to talk to the chair of math department in my

high school to get into a higher division math class. I do not know what made it so easy for her to

agree to rearrange my class, but I successfully switched to a trig class. I looked at the trig

formulas they were learning and told myself I would absolutely be able to catch up since the I

had learned most of the content covered. But there came the problems.

When I was in geometry, I had not had so many problems with English using in math

because the graphs and shapes usually explained the definitions and theories themselves. I had a
few problems as I learned the new terms but since other students were learning them as new

knowledge too, I was not so fall behind. But in trig class, even the first day was so hard. I

understand the math pretty well, but had difficulties understand a lot of the math terms the

teacher used in class. I realized what I learned in China about English was all about grammar and

stiff vocabularies that were not useful for daily life or learning academics in a complete English

environment. I understood what cosine and sine are, but did not even know how to express 1+1

in English. Apparently, what I learned about “+” is only that it is called “addition” formally, but

had no idea what “plus” and “minus” means. In fact, I messed them up for days after I learned

their real meaning. I knew multiply, but I noticed that the teacher barely expressed 2×3 as two

multiply by three but most likely, two times three.

So even though I always paid double attention to listen and understand what the teacher

said in class, I need to process way more information as digging through my brain to recall the

terms she mentioned while lecturing. As easy as whether plus is + or -, or as hard as words like

rhombus that I had never heard in English in my entire English learning experience. A lot of the

time, when I was still confused about that one term in the last sentence of the teacher, she had

already jumped to the next explanation which I need to process with longer time since I only

have a smattering of the previous sentence. I knew I need to stop this loop of confusion and slow


And later after I had learned that two times three means add three two times and it gets

simplified to like right now. These common uses of words in math confused me for a period of

time until I realize I need to figure them out to not influence my academic future. I asked others

about the “dumb” basics I did not understand. I asked my friends how to express square root; I

asked my teacher about exponential. And they all understood me and were willing to offer help,
which gave me the confidence of learning. I went online and search for the math terms that

elementary students learn and printed them out to get familiar with them. And as I learn, I found

out there are four categories of terms in math. First one is the words that are commonly outside

math which are pretty easy to understand the meaning even just by assuming, these are the words

like sum, random and point. The second kind is those what we usually just use in math such as

cosine and sine which are not too hard to learn. The third one is formed from different Greek

words like denominator and coefficient. And the last kind is that we use the words outside math

daily, but don’t know the meaning when applying to math, at least for me at the beginning, these

words are like times and plus. Also, when we express arguments in math, there are certain ways

we organize the words like: “the volumes of the solid generated by revolving y=2 about the y-

axis” but not “the volume created by y=2 circling around y-axis”. I started to understand why

people say that learning math is like learning a foreign language, because you must learn it by

understanding, memorizing would not help the best.

I am a person who enjoys helping people solving problems and fiving lectures to them,

especially in math. At first, the struggle to learn basic English in math stopped me from doing

that because sometimes I understand how to do it, but have no ability to explain them in the right

words. But after I started to learn the basic vocabulary and composition of words, I started to

lecture others from small problems with me only giving directions to solving, gradually longer

problems which I explained the whole process of solving them. After a semester, I gained so

much from lecturing others in math. Not only that I earn a lot of respects, but also, I learned so

much from it.

Be able to understand, be able to think, be able to explain, be able to teach, math not only

teach me how to read three times two, but how to start a new way to learn and communicate.
Thanks for my persistence in my difficult period of time of learning from basics again, I can be

the me right now.