Akshay Kumar Y. S.
Prayoga Institute of Education Research, Bengaluru
Mathematics is a subject that students often find to be very difficult, and I am no different. When I was in school, mathematics was a subject that I never liked. Sometimes, our teachers wouldn’t spend much time on a mathematical concept even though only a few students in class understood the topic. They did not bother about the fact that most of the students still needed guidance and perhaps more time for those mathematical problems. Hence, students like me gradually started to lose interest in the subject, and eventually, the fear of mathematics crept in.
In high school, I got introduced to several branches of mathematics, such as algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Here too, I faced the same problem. The main focus of some of the teachers was on completing the syllabus. Thus, even if only a handful of students understood those complex problems, the teachers stopped paying attention to the rest of us and moved to the next problem/topic. It was upsetting and frustrating as I realized that a few of us were gradually lagging. Also, the teachers never brought real-life scenarios or applications while teaching mathematics, because of which the classes often ended up being monotonous, and students lost interest quickly.
During my Pre-University Course (PUC) days, I had to continue learning mathematics in combination with subjects - of physics, chemistry, and biology (PCMB). Now, you may ask me why I chose this particular combination and not anything else that could have interested me more. The answer lies here– my mother! She wanted me to pursue a career in science or engineering. Therefore, I chose to battle my fear of mathematics one more time. Unfortunately, things were not different this time either. While I was comfortable with physics, chemistry, and biology, my struggle with mathematics continued. My basic understanding of mathematics was insufficient since my school days. I couldn't comprehend the complex mathematical problems in PUC either. When I wrote the final test, I passed all the subjects, barring one! No prize for guessing that subject. Yes, it was MATHEMATICS! I took the test several times with a full-time job but could not pass it.
Then struck the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools were closed indefinitely, and examinations gotcanceled. The board passed every student without holding any final examination and I cleared mathematics thus. However, I know well that this was not due to my efforts this time. I got lucky, but perhaps, I deserved some luck as well. I struggled with this subject since my school days as it has changed my life in more ways than one.
Why am I sharing this? Because I know I am not alone in this. The fear of mathematics is a mental pandemic, and many students suffer similarly. While some overcome this fear through hard work, perseverance, encouraging parents, and academically able teachers, others may not be so lucky. It needs addressing.
From my experiences, I believe that the following measures could have made an impact, and this may hold for many other students like me –
Parents and teachers play an important role here. Statements like ‘Maths is so hard’ can be highly discouraging and build a bias. Rather, the general attitude towards Maths ought to be as positive as that towards any other subject.
Maths can be portrayed as a fun and creative subject by encouraging students to solve Mathematical puzzles, online or app-based activities, etc., and finding creative solutions to different problems.
Providing examples from our daily lives can make mathematics relatable and meaningful. Experiential learning can be extremely useful in this regard.
Teachers need to realize that only a handful of students do not make up a class. They also need to focus on the slow learners, as they are the ones who often need more attention.
Right now, I am pursuing a B. Com, far away from the world of mathematics. Yet, I chose to share my personal experience because I wanted this to reach all the levels of the educational pyramid – the students, the teachers, the parents, the school management, and even the policy-makers. Maths-phobia and mathematical anxiety are real, and we all should play our parts to overcome this pandemic.