Meet The Math Translator

Hello! I’m Melissa. I’m a tenured community college math professor living and working in the eastern part of Washington state. I’ve been teaching math at the college level for 20 years now. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long! Like many people, my journey to this moment in my life was not a straightforward one. Along the winding road that led me to today, I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I’m most passionate about in life.

I Did Not Intend to be a Math Professor

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Montana State University, albeit separated by a number of years.  Initially I did not intend to be a math professor.  In fact, I wanted to be a naturopathic doctor.  In addition to my undergraduate and graduate education in mathematics, I hold a Bachelor of Science in Biology.  After undergraduate school I completed two years of naturopathic medical school.  Natural medicine is one of the great passions of my life, however, due to some unforeseen circumstances I was forced to take a year off after my second year of medical school. 


An Epiphany Changed the Course of My Life

During that year off I started teaching math as an adjunct at Portland Community College with the sole intent of just making a little money while I was waiting to resume my medical education. Little did I know I was in for some serious changes! I still remember the day I was walking in to teach when I had the epiphany that changed the course of my life. It literally stopped me in my tracks. It was one of those moments in life when the realization you just had changes your life utterly and completely and there is no going back from that moment.

I realized that I loved teaching math! And at the same time I realized that although I loved natural medicine, medical school was not the right fit for me. So, in that moment I made the decision to switch careers. Now, 20 years down the road, I see that not finishing that medical degree and pursuing math education instead was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. At the time though, I was devastated. I had my heart set on being a naturopathic doctor. But I have since learned that sometimes what we want isn’t what we need and getting what we need is often better than getting what we want. Why am I sharing this with you? Well, have you experienced indecision about your career path? Have you had obstacles in the way of completing a degree? Yea, I have too. I get it. Struggle isn’t all bad. It can help to clarify who you are and what is most important to you. It’s all about how you choose to view it.

Beautiful seashells on the beach, close up. Golden Ratio concept

An Affinity for Those Who Struggle with Math

Throughout my career, my focus has been primarily on teaching math courses ranging from Prealgebra through Calculus I. I have a particular affinity and passion for teaching students that either hate math or feel they “aren’t good at it.” Through patient, clear, and comprehensive instruction, I am often able to help my students turn that attitude around. Learning math does require effort on your part. But given the right instruction and consistent effort, you can learn it. It just takes resolve to stick with it until you have mastered the concepts. When you do learn it, the empowerment that comes from having made it through something difficult will be well worth it. That empowerment will stick with you throughout the rest of your education and into your career.

My Online Instruction Has Evolved Over Time

About ten years ago I started to focus on online instruction. I found it incredibly challenging to reach my online students in the same way I was able to reach my face-to-face students. I realized pretty quickly that written instructions for online students was ineffective. If students could read about math and learn it that way, then all we would need is math books. But that clearly isn’t the case.

I started my exploration of video production using a webcam I won at a math conference zip-tied to an old microscope stand that was earmarked for the trash can. If you Google “Melissa McNickle” you will find the YouTube channel where those first videos were posted. I sort of cringe and laugh at the quality of those videos now! From there I moved to using a document camera but the quality was still lower than what I wanted. Finally, I moved onto the combination of technology I use now to produce the high-quality videos you will experience on this site. And how are my online classes doing now? Awesome! It turns out the high-quality videos have been the answer to my years of searching for ways to bring the level of my online instruction up to the level of my face-to-face instruction.

Supporting Student Success Through High-Quality Video Instruction

It is my desire now to bring this video instruction to any math student wishing to make use of it for his or her learning.  If you are homeschooling, this program can be used as a stand alone program to prepare your child for college level math.  If you are a math teacher and do not have the desire, time, or technology to create video content for your students, then this website can fill the role of providing that additional support for your students. And if you are a college student just looking for some additional help, this website will certainly support your learning. 

I believe that every person has a unique gift to offer this world.  I am passionate about helping students achieve success in math because math is often the roadblock that prevents people from completing their degree and contributing that unique gift.  

Math is a language.  I am confident that you can learn to speak it with me.

I’ll be seeing you in lecture…….

~ Melissa