Bettina Khanthongdy plans to take her love of math and teaching overseas

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Bettina Khanthongdy tells us why she chose to study Mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State.

Why did you choose Iowa State? Simple: Cyclone Nation. Actually, I’d always wanted to go to Iowa State because of its history and being close-ish to home. My favorite teacher who made me love math in the 2nd grade also attended Iowa State.


Why mathematics? Like I said, I realized I’ve loved math in the 2nd grade. That love continued, and as I worked through high school, I was able to take higher-level math courses. Although the courses were harder, I’ll admit, it was rewarding to understand the underlying concepts behind the mathematics.

What has your favorite class been? My favorite class has been Math 397 – Teaching Secondary Mathematics. It was the first class that I started learning “how to teach” mathematics. It was neat to learn different ways approach problem-solving tasks as well as work with other future math teachers. It made me think outside the box, which expanded my learning potential.

What makes math fun to learn? Math is fun because it is everywhere. You use math more than you think such as in calculating your grade, counting money, etc. However, the most rewarding thing about learning math is the problem solving skills you learn from it. The problem solving skills you learn in your math courses can help you in other courses, and help you tackle real-life problems. I think any subject can be fun to learn, a big part of it is about the attitude you bring into learning it.

What has ISU done to help you prepare for graduation? ISU has given me so many great memories and has provided a great support system. I’m thankful for the residence hall systems, student services, academic services, and the sound curriculum. So many great teachers have come to learn at Iowa State, and I hope to be one of them. With my practicum experiences, curriculum and instruction courses, and student teaching experience, I feel prepared for graduation.

What are you involved in on campus? I am involved with the Salt Company, one of our campus ministries, and have lead a small group for three of my years at ISU. I was also involved with my residence hall, being social chair my sophomore year in Friley, and was a community advisor in Linden Hall for two years. I also did some intramurals in bowling, curling, and broomball during my time at ISU.

Have you had any work experiences or internships while at Iowa State? A huge part of my Iowa State experience was working with the department of residence. I worked as a summer conference staff member for two years, and spent a summer as a community adviser. These experiences helped me learn more about Iowa State’s residence hall system, gain people skills, and allowed for the opportunity to meet a lot of great people. Not only do I have wonderful memories because of these experiences, but also I learned tremendous people skills that I can use in the future. I learned how to approach issues, mediate conversations, and more about Iowa State.

Who is someone you look up to? I look up to my academic adviser, Heather Bolles. She was the one who taught my favorite class I mentioned above. She is so knowledgeable in her area and she has been a great support on my journey here at Iowa State. I also had the opportunity to work with her, as I was her supplemental instruction leader for Calculus I. She is a great teacher and I hope I will be as great as she is.

What advice would you give to someone considering a major in math? I’d say from personal experience, if what’s holding you back is one math course, don’t let that determine your decision. I didn’t want to take “proofs” so I actually didn’t start out as a math major. However, after 2 years in Chemical Engineering, I realized it was math I wanted to do all along. And, “proofs” wasn’t as bad as I thought. I’d also recommend that you would think about what do they want to do with math. Do you want to do research? Do you want to teach? Overall, think about what you like to do and what you want to do. If you don’t know, talk to an advisor for more information or visit student services. There are so many resources on campus that wants to help students find their fit.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation? I’m looking forward to using my degree to hopefully obtain a teaching job and make an impact in the lives of the children I’ll teach.