**Option #1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.**In fourth grade, the teacher challenged my class to solve fifty multiplication problems in one minute. The first time she gave us this "pop quiz," no one scored higher than a fifty percent. That night, I asked my parents to write up multiplication questions for me to practice because I could not accept failure in the subject I felt I should be best at. Math was the only subject which was familiar to me before I came to the United States. My parents, lacking an American education, could only teach me one subject - math. If I could not handle math class, then that would signify to me that I could not handle the switch in education systems on even the most minor level.

Two quizzes later, my teacher praised me as the first student to score an A on the quiz. The quiz turned math into a constant in my life that anchored my self-confidence. It sounds great at first: the struggling foreign student comes up on top and gains self-esteem.

There was one problem: that new self-esteem closely attached itself to the title of number one. It became a slight obsession that soon turned stressful in high school, where several people were taking algebra-II or pre-calculus while I was in geometry, the typical freshman course. I could not catch up unless I devoted a disproportionately large share of my time to math.

At first, I spent nights studying ahead and engraving formulas in my mind, but I still was a dwarf in comparison to other people in my school and math competitions. Hundreds of hours later, I asked myself, "Why am I doing this?"

There was no need to prove myself anymore. I had already demonstrated that I could do well academically through years of passing accelerated classes in all subjects. My math classes had no challenges that required extra studying. Slowly it became obvious to me that I liked to play with the patterns in mathematics more than receiving any top honors. But I couldn't enjoy math if I stressed over it, so I focused less on reaching the top and more on understanding and appreciating concepts better through retracing their proofs. As an additional bonus, I performed better in competitions.

My newly-realized fascination with math was something that needed to be shared. I knew my current abilities would not make any new discoveries in mathematics anytime soon, but I felt that I should still contribute to the subject and did so through helping others understand math better. I dedicated my after-school hours to the math club's new student-run tutoring program and the disorganized pre-calculus competition team that needed a mentor. Teaching became the new outlet for my passion.

One of my students smiled after she solved the length of a line between two points using the Pythagorean Theorem instead of the more abstract "distance formula" that she was taught. Math had just become a little easier for her and her confidence was apparent when she later explained my lesson to her friend. Everyone needs a bit of confidence in math; that's what dares them to experiment with patterns they see which is the most enjoyable part of math for me that I want to spread.

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