Hi everyone! In my last blog, I spoke about a couple of very interesting algorithmic techniques and how they can be used to solve a variety of very interesting problems. This blog however, is going to be completely different.

When we’re young we begin by learning the steps to add – we’re
given the rules and we must learn to repeat them – no questions asked. Why does
carry forward work the way it does? Well, *no questions asked.*

To some extent, it is important to know how exactly to do a
certain set of things while first learning maths. We may not be able to get
anywhere in a subject if we’re unable to learn a few basic rules and know how
to use them.

However, after a certain point it is important to bring in the
spirit of mathematical thinking within each student too – something missing in
almost every form of school math education. Mathematical miseducation is so
common, we wouldn’t even see it. We practically expect a math class to look
like repetition and memorisation of disjointed technical facts. A teacher might
teach you the quadratic formula – invented by some very smart person somewhere
in the world, and we’re simply supposed to apply it. Often what we really learn
in school math classes is *algorithms.*

Mathematics is first and foremost, a form of reasoning. It allows
us to formulate conjectures, justify facts, prove statements and come to
conclusions. We do mathematics much more than we realise. We do mathematics
when we question known procedures, innovate and come up with new ideas to solve
problems. Mathematics is a fundamental part of human thought and logic, and
integral to any attempt at understanding the world and ourselves.

On the contrary, the below is something one might expect in a
usual school math class.

These are the sort of things that really kill a student’s interest in mathematics. What we essentially memorised is an algorithm to solve any sort of question related to compound interest – just the way a computer does. Why does the algorithm work? Does it even work? We wouldn’t care – just the way a computer wouldn’t.

The irony is that many students would go to a math exam thinking
compound interest was the *best *chapter – all they needed to do is use
the formula correctly and they would definitely get their marks. And this shows
how deep the problem is. The subject is studied more for the marks in the final
examinations than for the joy and spirit of learning.

A student might also ask,
“What is the need to calculate all these values by hand? Is this not what the
calculator was invented for?!” And in asking this, they’re absolutely right.
Mathematics deals with the creation of these algorithms – not memorization and
repetition of them.

It is the human mind which needs to come up with ideas and
innovate. It is us who would need to *think*. And the essence of
mathematics is really just learning this art of thinking and innovating.

It is this misunderstanding which causes a majority to come back from school saying they do not like mathematics. It may not be uncommon for a student to think that any math problem can be solved in a minute or less and if they cannot do it – the subject is just not meant for them!

So, who is at fault here - Is it the student? Is it the teacher?
Or is the problem in the mindset of the society?

The major problem is the lack of true understanding of the subject
of mathematics. Not just among the students, but in the entire society. As
mathematics has been taught so poorly for so long, few adults have a genuine
understanding of mathematics. Most adults, who have been mathematically
miseducated themselves, would believe that mathematics involves performing a
set of procedures invented by others. They have learned - and expect others to
learn - mathematics as a set of rigid rules invented by others. This makes it
really hard to bring about any real reform in the way mathematics is taught.

Mathematics is a subject that can change the world – and it is unfortunate
that a lot of students do not ever get to see much of its magic in their
education. If every student gets to see the power of mathematics, a subject
where we create, we imagine and we innovate - maybe the day is not very far
away when every student would come back home and say,

*“Math? – Oh, who doesn’t love math.” *

Thank you for reading!

Rushil.

(Pictures taken from Google.)

Woahhh! Such a nice post!

ReplyDeleteThanks :)

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