Algebra, the area of a triangle, ratio, circles, the Pythagoras Theorem, linear equations, geometry – all these often pose as monsters for students. The fear of learning mathematics has reached such a level where students no longer want to learn the subject anymore. However, the World Wide Web has come to the rescue and helped students adopt simple yet effective strategies in their pursuit to learn the king of all subjects.
The phobia for mathematics has engulfed students from time immemorial and especially those who are inherently weak in calculations. At times, it creates anxiety, a severe lack of interest and involvement and even behavioural problems among students. Therefore, it is imperative for teachers and the society to help these students combat the fear of mathematics.
It has often been seen that teachers face problems while teaching mathematics. The reasons can be multifarious – a shortage of resources, an obvious lack of interest amongst students, size of the classroom and the likes. According to a study conducted by the British Council, mathematics anxiety is linked to a poor performance in the subject, which in turn makes teaching the subject a difficult task.
Mathematics Learning Made Easier
It is important for teachers to find innovative strategies to make the subject interesting for students so that fear for the subject turns into love. Schoology Exchange, a blog by Cyndi Amaya, narrates the rather interesting tale of an Indonesian mathematics teacher who made the subject interesting to her students in a rather unique fashion. She used social media in teaching mathematics and this helped her students in getting rid of the fear for the subject.
She utilized Schoology and its user-friendly mobile app to make math more user friendly for her students. This was unique in the sense that she designed modules using the internet. She uploaded specially designed assignments, quizzes and equations on the internet and made the students solve the same using the online mode rather than the traditional pen and pencil mode.
In India as well, many teachers are adopting innovative strategies to make mathematics interesting. Prerna Dhingra, a teacher from Cambridge School in Delhi, makes the subject more interesting for her students by organizing quizzes in her classroom. This has not only helped her students to learn the difficult formulae but has also inculcated a deep interest amongst students who once hated the subject. “Making mathematics interesting for every student is a tedious task. I have done a lot of research on how to combat the fear of math amongst my students. I designed a module to make the subject more interesting for them. A learning system has to be made which emphasizes on solving problems in enhancing the students’ abilities,” said Prerna.
Cuemath is another platform that helps students combat this fear. The platform claims that it’s a beyond-school mathematics excellence programme that helps children build a strong foundation in the subject by exposing them to the mathematics of concept, the mathematics of aptitude and the mathematics of reasoning. Having developed its syllabus in accordance with the learning standards adopted by various Indian school boards along with the curricula used by the USA, the UK and Singapore, the platform has uniquely designed workbooks that encourage active learning by helping students examine and solve problems independently.
Mathematics of aptitude is designed to sharpen mental mathematics by using a series of games like tab-based exercises. These exercises enhance children’s abilities to solve problems by evaluating situations and drawing conclusions from the provided information. These exercises also help in increasing the accuracy and proficiency amongst children. Mathematics of reasoning is delivered through carefully designed puzzle cards and it encourages children to think out of the box and find creative solutions to various challenges.
“Innovation is just a part of the equation. Children also need to make smart and logical decisions in their lives, which is why it is important to build a strong foundation in mathematics amongst our children. I have realized that the conventional approach in teaching mathematics is not giving children the room to appreciate the subject. Instead, most children develop a fear for the subject, which is rather disheartening. Therefore, I wanted to find a way to help children see how mathematics is prevalent in every aspect of our lives. This is exactly why I started Cuemath. It treats mathematics as a life skill that helps the students navigate through the ever-changing world,” said Manan Khurma, the CEO of Cuemath.
Bakhtawar Krishnan, the Founder and Director of Inspirus Education has an interesting take on mathematics. She said, “Mathematics has the maximum applications in life. Ideally, it should be related with daily applications to make it interesting. When you go to buy an item from the market, you can use the concept of percentage and profit and loss. When two captains go for a toss before a cricket match, the concept of probability can be taught. When there is painting happening in the house, the concept of mensuration can be taught.”
The Students Speak
Linear equations, algebra, percentages, calculus, trigonometry and geometry were like demons to Meher Khilwani, a student of Kulachi Hansraj School. She hated the subject until she found out a way to combat this fear. “I use to hate mathematics a lot. It was never an easy subject for me. I always had to struggle to understand simple linear equations or any other mathematics problems until my teacher gave me a solution on how to combat this anxiety. She advised me to search methods of studying the subject on the internet. I did the same and through her help, I have started developing a liking for the subject. My teacher designed a few assignments for me that really helped me to beat the stress. Now, I feel more confident of studying mathematics than earlier,” Meher said.
Dev Madaan, a student of Dev Samaj Modern School, uniquely looks at mathematics. He experimented with a number of ways to understand the subject and found a platform namely www.meritnation.com that has really helped him. He informed, “While researching on the internet, I have come across meritnation.com, a platform that has a very unique way of solving mathematics problems. One can ask any question on the platform and find a solution. Not only this, music too played the role of a great healer for me to combat mathematics fear. Now, while studying the subject or practicing it, I always listen to music, which helps me to be focus.”
The government too is playing its due part in mitigating the fear for mathematics. The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has constituted a committee to reduce the fear of mathematics amongst students. Under the Chairmanship of Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, the committee will suggest ways to make the teaching of mathematics easier.
Prakash Javadekar, the Minister of Human Resource Development, had announced at the Annual Meeting of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) that the decision to form the committee was taken to eliminate the fear of mathematics among the students and on the basis of the National Assessment Survey. He added that eminent educationists and senior officials are parts of this committee.
He also informed, “Another committee will be set up under the chairmanship of Kadiyam Srihari, the Deputy Chief Minister of Telangana, to suggest and strengthen the training of in-service teachers. Both committees will submit their reports within three months.”
Reporting by Bhawna Satsangi Special Correspondent, Delhi