|While uneducated people, who run small-time businesses, are able to calculate quite accurately sans the calculator, the urban students are subjected to the travails of learning the multiplication tables by heart.|
|The student clan can be broadly divided into two groups with respect to mathematics; the ones who adore it and the others who despise the subject for whatever it is worth. Similarly teachers of mathematics are perhaps the only people in the teaching community who are either revered or most detested by students and there has been no middle path in this trend for eons.
Indian mathematical fame
When one wonders what could be wrong about the subject or the system, the reality around us shows a different picture. Indians have been acclaimed for their mathematical talents at the global level. No matter what we have to say about the education system of India, the fact remains that Indian students have all along been appreciated across the globe for their mathematical skills which has been ingrained in them right from their formative years. For the ones who are already remarking, the prized students are but the cream of the educated, which is a miniscule percentage in the overall picture of the country’s overwhelming population.
Stop for a moment to observe around you, it will not be difficult to notice that everyone you deal with throughout the day is adept in the subject, specifically arithmetic besides algebra. The milkman, the bus conductor, the vegetable seller, the cobbler, the child next door and even the beggar you are charitable to, appear to know the rudiments of the subject with perhaps the exception of the mentally challenged who live in a world of their own.
The basic chapters like fractions, decimals, percentage, ratio and proportion are used in everyday life very unconsciously. Even uneducated people, who run small-time businesses or work as labourers, are able to calculate quite accurately sans the calculator. They have an uncanny way of dealing with numbers mentally most of the times.
It is high time teachers of mathematics put across this fact to the unwilling student who live in the eternal dread of the subject.
Urban parents who are paranoid about their wards not doing very well in the future, spend a fortune on their children by investing in tuition classes, abacus courses and Vedic mathematics lessons, in the hope of seeing their children do better and eventually score a centum in the subject. Students are subjected to the travails of learning the multiplication tables by heart and working out tons of sums on note paper with the intention of making them hone their skills. One cannot disown the fact that these measures do help the willing learner, but it is the unwilling scholar who causes anxiety to the teacher.
The pictures alongside which were received as e-mail forwards, speak in volumes about the apathy that is resident in the minds of the students who are either making sincere attempts to follow the instructions given by the teacher or just cannot take a ‘problem’ any further out of sheer disgust.
Teachers of mathematics will assure you that while their lives are not one without their shares of joys and sorrows of teaching the subject, one cannot certainly discount the subject as drab because some of their students fill the papers with a rip-roaring sense of humour quite inadvertently.
To many adults, particularly parents and teachers, such youngsters become a perennial source of worry and concern. They feel that their children will be doomed to a bleak future if they are not adept at unravelling the anonymities of the prescribed syllabus of the subject.
It is high time these parents and teachers realise that all people eventually learn their arithmetic sooner or later. If youngsters are able to grapple the nuances of logarithms, trigonometry or analytical geometry, good for them but it does not really matter in the least as long as they have understood the basics of mathematics. This knowledge will see them through a long way in life. In fact entrance examinations across the globe which include mathematics as one of the tests even at very high levels do not test beyond the basics where the questions are sometimes presented in an oblique manner.
Once a student is thorough with the basics, he or she will be ready to learn advanced mathematics which is nothing but a compilation and combination of the rudiments of the subject per se. Hence it is important to know that there is a latent knowledgeable mathematical soul in everyone of us which is in various stages of awareness. Each one of us has a lucid idea of concepts such as quantity, structure, space, and change which are nothing but tenets of mathematics otherwise mankind would not have progressed thus far.
If teachers of mathematics are able to put across Gudder’s idea to students that “mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple” maybe life will become simpler.