Education

A life story linked to math application

As a child, Charles Nottage had a fascination with learning how things worked. His mind was always calculating – and thinking about his next move. His gift for math was recognized early when he was just a third-grade student at C.W. Saunders Baptist High School. Nottage would go on to ace the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exam, and earn exemption from three levels of math when he enrolled at The College of The Bahamas (COB) (now University of The Bahamas) in the fall of 2007. Since that early third-grade recognition by his teacher, Nottage’s life story has been linked to mathematics, and he is now an adjunct assistant professor at The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), lecturing in what else – mathematics.

His aptitude for math was discovered after he was found doing sums that were three grade levels above him at the time. His older sister had been taking after-school classes to stay abreast, which meant that he had to wait for her; he used the time to do the math problems his sister was doing. The teacher noticed and decided to teach Nottage as well.

In high school, he continued to excel at math while at Jordan Prince William High School. He also received after-school tutoring by his teacher who told him he saw the potential for the teen to ace the BGCSE exam. Nottage obtained an “A” grade in the senior national examination.

While at COB, he met Dr. Joseph Ferguson and Dr. Yan Lyansky – professors who he said played a big part in his growth as a math major at UTA and encouraged him to pursue a doctorate (PhD) degree.

From September 2021 to December 2021, UTA retained Nottage’s services as a postdoctoral research assistant. He was offered the position of adjunct assistant professor for the spring 2022 semester.

“I was thrilled to receive this offer and gladly accepted it,” said Nottage, 32, the son of pastors Cassandra and Charles Nottage. He is currently lecturing three sections of elementary statistics that had full registration of the 130 slots per section. While he admits it has been challenging to manage the load, he said he has enjoyed every moment of it.

Nottage has sought to make math as understandable as possible with PowerPoints for his lectures, and working notes for topics taught in sessions.

“I encourage engagement by students to increase their understanding of the various topics. To teach math at this level is very satisfying to me. I marvel at the recognition of students that learning math at this level can be challenging but rewarding.”

His ultimate career goal is to achieve the status of a full-time professor of math.

“My ultimate goal is to secure a professor position at UTA and offer my services on a consultancy basis to my country to assist with the math program – lending my knowledge and expertise to the math program at all levels to foster a love for learning math and improving the average BGCSE math scores. I believe with some modification, The Bahamas’ math program can become the envy of the Caribbean.”

Nottage is also completing three research papers for publication.

While Nottage’s accomplishments, to date, blow you away, getting to this point did not come without challenges.

“To move to the next phase of the doctoral program, we, as graduate students, had to pass three preliminary exams – I had some trouble passing these exams. I passed two of them by the end of 2018.”

The exams were separate from his regular semester courses and are challenging to pass.

“There were times when I felt like giving up, but I had faith in God and the support from my family that kept me pushing forward,” he said.

He also acknowledges that it shows him that there will always be bumps on the road to success, but that it is up to each person whether they stay down when they trip and fall, or if they get back up, brush the dirt off and continue toward the finish line. 

Nottage refused to stop.

“I kept moving toward that finish line no matter how many times I fell.”

In January 2021, he finally passed his final preliminary exam and was then set to graduate with his doctorate degree in August 2021.

Nottage earned his bachelor of mathematics degree with credit in 2011 from COB but stayed on for a final semester to complete a business administration course and graduated in May 2012 along with his sister Cassandra Nottage-Mackey. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with Chemistry.

“It was a momentous day in our family’s life when our parents witnessed their two children walking across the COB stage to accept their diplomas,” he recalled.

Nottage was accepted by three American universities to pursue his doctoral degree, deciding on UTA, as it is known for its research, science, and mathematics education program.

“My bachelor’s degree courses were entirely accepted towards my degrees which says something significant about The College of The Bahamas’ quality of education. I was accepted unconditionally into the accelerated bachelor’s to doctoral degree program.”

The program allows students to complete two tracks of academic studies simultaneously. Nottage graduated in 2017 with a master’s degree in mathematics-computer science. In August 2021, he graduated with his doctoral degree as the only Caribbean graduate in UTA’s mathematics program and one of two Black students in the program.

“Accomplishing my goal of obtaining a PhD in mathematics means a lot to me. It means that I made it to the most significant degree in academia. It means that I stayed the course through thick and thin. It means that I proved to myself and others that I, as someone that struggled through exam after exam after exam, was able to reach the final degree level in academia. It was important because when I write the story of my life, this accomplishment will be one of the highlights that will encourage others never to give up, keep pushing forward, and have faith that their dream, which is connected to their purpose, will come to pass. You need the perseverance to push forward and through to your goal.”

For Nottage, a good education opens doors of opportunity for any young person.

“You should dream big as God can open doors for others to pay for your education through grants and scholarships. The stratosphere is the limit for me, not just the sky. Math is the foundation for all other tracks of academia and life.”

His advice to Bahamians in the high school/college pipeline is to “study, study, study”.

“Get those good grades as they can open doors to higher education for you. Apply to all the scholarship venues or even use sports as a vehicle to get you to where you wish to be in achieving your academic goals.”

He also encourages them to not quit, and to take the word “can’t” out of their vocabulary.

“Always keep moving forward, even if it is one step at a time, or crawl if you must – but don’t stop moving forward with your goals and dreams. Consistent effort with much persistence, patience, and perseverance will produce a rewarding future for you.”

Nottage said he “studied and studied and studied some more”, but that he also took much-needed breaks to remain sane. His pastime involved playing computer games and reading manga (comics or graphic novels originating from Japan). He also enjoys watching action, adventure, and comedy movies or series.

His advice to others is to get to know their strengths.

“My own (strength) was working extra hard and getting full marks on all of the homework and short quizzes. From I was young, long exams caused me anxiety. Although I knew the material, as I studied hard, I would find myself not doing so well in those exams because the anxiety would overcome me. My parents came up with a confession that took me from bachelor’s to doctorate degree. It came straight from the Bible: ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’ There were some other confessions, but this one was said every night, and it sunk in over the many years of my educational journey and assisted in me overcoming crippling fear when taking exams. This confession strengthened my inner man and continues to do so today.”

At this juncture, Nottage said he needs to take a long break from academics except to conduct research to complete his papers. His plans he said will be concentrating his efforts on establishing his career in the education and/or business field.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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