Math Phobia an Unnecessary Evil
People often say that math should be made interesting. Isn’t it already?
Math is a language that helps in understanding the world around us. It help us nurture qualities like spatial and critical thinking, power of reasoning and Mathematics and offer rationality of thought. Be it a chef or a farmer, a carpenter, a shopkeeper or a mechanic.
Wherever we see, whatever we see has Math in it. For instance, fractals in nature, banking, digital technology, travel, health care, agriculture, and many more.
But it is unfortunate to know that math is considered to be an arid subject. The majority of students have an aversion to math class, find it boring and they often question themselves "Am I ever going to use this?”. There is widespread anxiety among the students that scares them throughout their school life. This is the current state of the subject in most of the schools.
Why do many students struggle in Mathematics?
Most of the students study Math to pass their grades. Though few students manage to score good grades in Math, but that does not mean they enjoy learning the subject. So, is it the problem of the students or the subject? Well, the answer is that it is neither students nor the subject that is responsible for this issue. Instead, it’s the way it is taught. Math is taught in isolation and that makes student struggle to relate to it in real-life situation. A lack of relevance makes this subject seem obscure. Hence students find math abstract.
The current need is to create math awareness in our everyday life and highlight its application in various fields.
Can the education system and teachers help students to improve their interest in mathematics?
School is the place where we can change the attitude of students towards Math. It is very essential to first establish the need for learning the subject and to make learning Math more fun. Math should be more than just solving problems and getting the right answers. The approach that is followed now needs to be changed. For example, while teaching graphs we just highlight how to plot the graph and different types of graphs. Instead, we need to help students understand the need for different graphs and their uses in different fields. This is when they will connect it to real life and understand the need to study graphs.
So, when a new concept is introduced, one should start with an interesting real-world problem. Let's take another example – profit and loss. Here instead of defining profit and loss, we must let the students build a model of an amusement park, take ownership, and run their amusement park. During this process students not just enjoy but also learn the concepts and understand their importance. When an abstract concept needs to be introduced, first give a concrete example, and later connect it to the abstract concept. There are many such ways where we can involve students and make learning math more fun and interesting.
Integrating Mathematics to other subjects like History, Science, Geography also plays a vital role in creating interest among students. One of the best examples is introducing Roman numbers. There are quite a lot of students who still wonder why they need to learn Roman numbers. I am sure a few of them who are reading this article have the same question. The reason is that most of us were taught that Roman numbers are a different set of numbers with different symbols. The focus was to write Roman numbers to Hindu Arabic numbers and vice versa. The same method is followed even today in most schools. But have we ever tried encouraged the students to explore why there was a need for different number systems, how they evolved, how the Roman numbers came into existence and why we use Hindu Arabic numbers these days instead of Roman numbers? Isn’t that integrating History with Math. Won’t that be interesting information which will leave its mark and spark curiosity.
As we go to higher grades, we can pose few open-ended questions and trigger their intellect to find an answer. For example, a question like "Why tree trunk is cylindrical in shape and not any other shape?" expects them to use their knowledge of science and Math. Though they cannot find an answer to it at once, the process of finding the answer itself will make it more interesting.
It is in the teacher's hand to tune the student’s perception of the subject.
Let us change the approach to teach math and make it more exciting to learn Math. Let us eliminate the fear and apprehension students have towards the subject. Let us help our students admire and uncover the beauty of Math.