Zayn Karim fulfilling dream of becoming a math teacher

Zayn Karim has always wanted to be a teacher. Currently a second-year student, Karim chose the IU School of Education to pursue a degree in secondary math education because she wanted access to one of the best schools of education in the country while also staying close to her family.

She chose math education because of how it applies to life: “These are important life skills: being able to recognize patterns between problems and recall relevant concepts/solutions,” Karim explained. “I hope that if I can teach my students to not give up on challenging math problems, they won’t give up on challenging problems outside of the classroom. It’s all about practice! Practice makes improvement.”

Though she’s still in school, Karim is already gaining experience in teaching: she leads two weekly sessions for finite math students through Peer-assisted Study Sessions (PASS) at IU’s Student Academic Center, something she calls a rewarding experience.

I hope that if I can teach my students to not give up on challenging math problems, they won’t give up on challenging problems outside of the classroom.

“I love teaching finite because it aligns with my pedagogical beliefs. Students are motivated to learn when they believe the content is genuinely useful and/or that the skills associated are transferable,” Karim said. “So I like that finite is not about plugging numbers into formulas; it’s truly about realistic problem-solving applications. In life, problems are always different, but they still have a pattern. Finite is learning how to identify patterns, and I hope that I’m helping students see that.”

Karim got an early start to college – at 16, she realized she would be able to graduate a year early. Since she’d already skipped a grade, she found herself two years ahead of other students her age.

Since at IU, Karim stayed busy. Besides PASS, she was recently accepted into the Hutton Honors program, and is hoping to study abroad through an Honors class. She is also a Hudson and Holland scholar, which allowed her to do an Intensive Freshman Seminar (IFS) exclusively for that program, earning three credits in three weeks.

“This past summer, things came full circle when I had the honor of working with my IFS professor, Dr. Arlene Díaz, as her teacher’s assistant for the 2020 IFS. I hope I helped make the transition to life at IU easier for her Hudson and Holland students,” Karim said.

Karim is also involved with the Women in Math Club at IU, started by two of her friends, Mallory Smith and Greta Stephenson, who are also math education majors. In her free time, she enjoys comparative religious studies, something that led her to start a book club over the summer to learn more about her faith, Islam Ahmadiyya.

While her spring semester earlier this year was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Karim said the fall semester has been much better.

“I miss getting to walk around campus, or have late-night study sessions at Wells Library with friends, but I’m thankful for my circumstances. Right now, not everyone has reliable internet connection, or a quiet place to work, or people who support them. By the grace of God, I’ve been privileged to have all I need to get through this semester, so far,” she said.

Karim is already thinking about what life as a teacher could be like.

“The future is always uncertain but I hope one day, God willing, I can create an inclusive class environment where students can develop a growth mindset,” she said.

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