Equations, theorems, Cartesian system, trigonometry, calculus and the list goes on. Ah! Math is so complicated. That’s what we usually think when we think of Math. But haven’t we heard the great geniuses of numbers quote that math is to make complicated things simple and not the other way around. Math is defined as the fundamental step of learning process. Everything revolves round the number game. There is also a very popular myth that you are either born a math whiz or not. This popular misconception is so equally ingrained among parents and students that math teachers’ bear the extra burden of proving this wrong in addition to teaching this oh so simple complicated subject to students. Well, do we really believe that math is so complicated that most of the students who are not born with the Math DNA feel stressed out when it comes to learning math in schools? Or do we need to look at new and different methods of teaching math that caters to the needs of the students depending upon their learning abilities.
I believe that every student has the inherent ability to learn provided they are given the right tools and the time to process what is being taught using the given tools. Math is to simplify things around us and so it is simple. Step one create interest and get rid of the fear of math students. Math is more or less daunting for most of the students except for those born with the so called ‘math-gene’. We need to project math as morn fun and less unpleasant and a scary subject. Traditional approach of teaching math has always been using chalkboard and lectures of sort. But today we have the most powerful tool available to us in the form of technology. While chalkboard has its own advantages, we cannot stay away from introducing technology in classrooms for too long.
Many studies have shown that visuals have a strong and long impact on one’s mind. Teaching math using visuals that would help students watch, listen, concentrate, engage, analyze, get creative, create and solve problems is one good way to start teaching math in a novel approach. Integration is another approach that could be incorporated be it interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary or fusion across disciplines to drive a concept home could be one another method of teaching math where students are allowed to get creative and at the same time equally pursue other subjects of interest. Today, kids everywhere have unlimited access to internet. It would be interesting to have school approved online portals for students to engage in games with math theme such as puzzles, blocks, word problems, online apps that promote brain workout as part of their school work individually and as a part of team. This would not only challenge students but give them a chance to explore Math as something fun to do rather than just text book concepts to be learnt and memorized. Today students are so lucky in that they don’t have to wait for teachers to begin a lesson. They have google and internet at their service. There are so many online videos on YouTube and other websites which have both notes and videos for Math at every level. These materials are both visually and verbally so engaging and informational. Today children learn more from watching videos on iPad and TV than anywhere else. So this would be beneficial for teachers to take advantage of the already existing ready-made tools that is open to all and free of cost to make their classes more interesting and appealing. Tools, when we talk of tools what to do we mean? Do we allow students to bring calculators, use software skills to solve math problems? Will they be able to work math problems, add, subtract on tip of their tongue if they didn’t have calculators? Well, we cannot keep kids from today’s generation away from technology and that means calculators and computers. Back then we had calculators that barely did addition and subtraction. Today we have scientific and graphing calculators. We don’t encourage calculators in schools but its high time we did. We don’t have to have the disadvantage of using advanced tools only when we start our engineering classes. Kids in advanced countries already have advanced technological tools at their disposal in classrooms. So yes, technology in but hey that doesn’t mean we don’t want our kids to be dependent on them.
Last but not least, why is math so important? I think because of its practicality. We need and use it everywhere, every day in our lives. I remember when I was in the 3rd grade and my dad asked me to do a very simple problem. He wanted me to calculate the monthly bill for our milkman and I remember being all tensed and stressed out. I couldn’t do the simple calculation and when my dad asked me why, I told him it was out of syllabus. Well he did teach me how to calculate the amount due to our milkman which I finally realized that it was not rocket science and just a simple problem of addition, subtraction and multiplication. Moral of the story, we need to introduce an element of practicality when teaching math. We need to make our students not only learn, memorize and regurgitate the laws of sines and equations in algebra but also how to use them in their daily lives. We just don’t want them to learn math but use math to not only solve home-work problems but prepare them to solve the socio-economic and environmental problems of the future as math is the basis of almost everything else.
Hope to inspire love for math in my students with this quote by John Louis von Neumann “If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is”.