By Helena V Pena

      I studied in a Normal High School where I obtained an Elementary School certificate in the early 1970s. It was in my hometown located in the northeast of Colombia. Since teaching had always been my real passion, I taught at an elementary public school for about five years, but I always thought about becoming a certified secondary teacher. I  had to specialize in at least one area, so I decided my major would be mathematics. Two reasons contributed to that decision.

     One reason was my previous success in Math. During  high school I was always at the top of my class. In fact, I got high scores in this subject because I developed a special skill solving any kind of math problem easily, which my teachers called "mathematical thinking." That recognition encouraged me to choose Math as my major.

     Another reason was my desire to compete with male candidates to become a math teacher. At that time in my country, few women were admitted into the study of math because it was considered a male career.  I wanted to demonstrate to my parents, to my teachers, and above all, to myself that I could reach my goal, which was to be a successful math teacher. Therefore, as soon as I could, I enrolled at a university, studied for five years and achieved my Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and a math teaching credential.

     I think that I chose my major correctly because I had success as a math teacher and  because the reasons which motivated my decision were very strong. In Colombia, I did some research on how to develop children's mathematical thinking from kindergarten to twelfth grade. To do this I  worked with some public school teachers who experimented with the method that came from my personal experience, and the results were successful. Those results were written in a methods book for teachers. I was proud to be considered a role model for many women who followed my example and got their Math teaching credential at a  time when mathematics was a male career. Since then, many women like me have studied and become successful math teachers in my country.