When I was a child in Baltimore there was one excellent public high school with a Science and Engineering curricula, but it was restricted to boys. One day, a girl (KS) sued the school district to force them to allow girls to study math and science. Because of her, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (Poly) opened its doors to girls, and the next year I was admitted.
Poly has a long established tradition of sending its students to some of the top engineering universities in the country, and I was no exception. I was one of 79 students in the school of over 1,000. In the Advanced College Preparatory track, there were less than a dozen women in the class of 360+. Few made it through the vigorous program, but even the girls who dropped down to the College Preparatory track have done well in life. With my Poly education, I was admitted to Carnegie Mellon University while still in the tenth grade, though I did not attend until after I completed the eleventh grade. At the time Carnegie Mellon was rated #7 in engineering overall and #3 in electrical engineering.
Thanks to my gift of mathematics (which was handed down to my from my oldest brother, who has degrees in both electrical and mechanical engineering and who is also a Poly-grad), I am easily employable, have enjoyed a wonderful life, and find few things difficult. Moreover, when I applied to Harvard University, although I was quite sure I would not be accepted due to my lack of experience in the area I was applying (public policy), Harvard selected me based solely on the strength of my math and science.
The kicker --- I HATED ALGEBRA!
Worst course ever!
Still the only class that made me cry.
Why? Algebra is hard! Algebra teaches you to think differently. Algebra is so crucial in higher mathematics that even if it takes three tries or more, it's worth it. As used to tell my students over at the Tiger Woods Learning Center, if you can master algebra, you can master mathematics.
(Calculus is much easier than algebra, especially if you understand algebra and trigonometry.)
I am a John F. Kennedy Fellow, Science, Technology and Public Policy and former Navy Missile Engineer (rocket scientist) thanks to mathematics, physics and chemistry.