My experience in mathematics education shows the impact that passionate teachers can have on the future careers of young people and the key role that a supportive family can play along the way.
I discovered my love for mathematics while I was a student at Trinity College Moka, a secondary school in Trinidad and Tobago. This all-boys school I attended provided an excellent environment for students to develop themselves in academic study, sport, competitive board games, and music. I primarily enjoyed academic study and music. Among the compulsory subjects I enjoyed studying in my secondary school years, I developed an affinity for mathematics that has stayed with me ever since.
In 3rd form (2010/11) we were assigned a mathematics teacher who created a classroom environment that encouraged students to abandon their fear of the subject. It was thanks to that teacher’s love for teaching that I soon found my own enjoyment in solving problems in mathematics. This inspired me to select Additional Mathematics as a subject towards my Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC). CSEC is a secondary school qualification equivalent to GCEs in the United Kingdom that is offered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and each year thousands of students from the English-speaking Caribbean, the Netherland Antilles and Suriname sit CSEC exams. Even though I grew up as the youngest in a family of seven where I would be the only one to have taken this subject together with a mix of Sciences (Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics) and Languages (French, Spanish), I received monumental support from my family as I stepped up to the challenge in 4th form.
Within the first few months of 4th form the unexpected happened: I was diagnosed with a severe case of double scoliosis! To mitigate the harmful effects of this condition later in life, my doctor suggested that I wear a hard-plastic back brace each day. Having decided to follow through with this intervention, the acute pains that came with it significantly inhibited my physical mobility and in the first few months of wearing the brace my outlook on life took on a gloomy character. However, through support from family and a spiritual practice, I eventually saw this as an opportunity to further my academic growth with greater determination. As such, I found myself devoting most of my energy to my studies for the rest of my time as a secondary school student. In this way I founded a steel-like work ethic which unexpectedly gave me enough confidence to help my classmates with whatever questions they might have had about the lessons we took. Therefore, with determination borne from a difficult situation, the end of 5th form saw my achievement of the best CSEC results of my year group at Trinity College Moka. This was accompanied by the surprising outcome that I placed first in the Caribbean Region for my performance in the 2013 Additional Mathematics CSEC examination, tying with another student from Trinidad and Tobago who I later befriended.
Still coping with the challenges of living with double scoliosis, I undertook 6th form at another renowned all-boys secondary school: Hillview College. It was there that I saw success in my studies much beyond my imagination. Having considered the possibility of studying Actuarial Science at university, I opted to study as much mathematics as I possibly could in sixth form. This meant that, in addition to taking Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Physics offered by the CXC through their Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) qualification (equivalent to the UK’s A Levels), my parents thankfully arranged for my extra tuition in CIE Further Mathematics. By the time my two-year stay at Hillview College ended, I made a total of 5 regional top-10 placements in the CAPE merit lists for Pure Mathematics (6th in 2014; 2nd in 2015), Applied Mathematics (1st in 2015) and Physics (2nd in 2014; 5th in 2015). Overall, I was designated by the CXC as the most outstanding performer in Mathematics in the 2015 CAPE Examination. Shortly after this, I received a highly contested Open Scholarship from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago which allowed me to undertake undergraduate studies in Mathematics at University College London (UCL) in 2016 - 2019.
Fast-forwarding to the summer of 2019, I attained a BSc in Mathematics from UCL, where I graduated with the highest score in my year group and made the Dean’s List. In the autumn of that same year, I began to read towards an MSc in Mathematical Sciences at the University of Oxford while on a Peter Helps scholarship granted by Worcester College. After studying through the storm of the pandemic, I thankfully completed my master’s degree with distinction in the summer of 2020. Today, now more than 10 years since meeting that one passionate teacher in 3rd form, I’m a PhD student at the UCL Mathematics department doing what I massively enjoy: developing analytic theory and numerical methods for approximating solutions to nonlinear partial differential equations arising from models in Mean Field Games.