By Dr Amrita Vohra
As an educator for the last three decades, I have always cherished my interactions with students. Each student is like a snowflake that is unique and unmatched. However, one often comes across students with questions that compel you to ask yourself what education really means. Recently, as I walked in during a Math class in my school, I noticed a student looking unconvinced about what was been taught. I asked him to step out and as I talked to him, I sensed the teacher had not successfully communicated the topic being taught.
A subject that sparks a lot of reservations is Maths. Whether it is learning the Pythagoras Theorem, Trigonometry or even fractions, there is a question mark on its relevance. While India has a history of great mathematicians, such as Ramanujan, Aryabhatta, Shakuntala Devi and many others who have contributed in a large way to the subject, there is a huge percentage of students who struggle with the subject. It has been deemed a subject that is comprehensible only to “bright minds”, mainly because the level of difficulty is high compared to other subjects. Research and polls conducted by various agencies have also confirmed that Maths, as a subject, came out on top of the difficulty chart. This is not surprising. It takes a lot of patience and persistence to grasp the basic concepts of mathematics.
Personally, I believe in engaging students by introducing real-life concepts, through objects and daily experiences such as buying vegetables, setting a table, solving Rubik’s cube, playing with a deck of cards as ways to teach the basics of Maths. This ensures the kids have fun while building a strong foundation. Analysing real-life problems catalyses the decision-making and problem-solving abilities of the brain. A child’s brain is sharp and their brain activity levels change while taking on math problems. Thus, inculcating the habit of solving easy mathematical problems from the early days helps in sharpening the brain further.
Games and activities like Snakes and Ladders, Hopscotch, Number Lines form the basis of our curriculum delivery for primary years. Role play through market activity, setting up a grocery store, running a restaurant and creating a business focuses on the art of transaction and negotiation that helps to understand numbers in a more definitive and realistic manner.
While Maths might seem like a purely formulaic pursuit, the patterns and ratios such as symmetry, geometry and measurement are involved in creating beautiful art, where many artists take advantage of mathematical findings, such as the golden ratio to make their artwork beautiful and realistic. I am of the strong opinion that Math is a beautiful subject that cannot be negated. The Fibonacci sequence and seeing the law of proportion in nature also involves shapes and sizes that form the basis of geometry in Maths.
Acquiring concepts and applications of trigonometry, abacus, probability and statistics not only helps the brain develop one’s proficiency in critical thinking, problem-solving and analytical thinking but also helps use these skills in everyday life. Abacus is among the simple calculating tools available, which are designed in a manner that sparks visualisation while performing calculations.
In a nutshell, Mathematics forms the foundation of every little thing that we do. The quality of education can be dramatically improved provided we focus on fundamentals and concepts. Being in an era where skill development, technological developments, and innovations are highly regarded, the more mathematical we are in our approach, the more successful we will be. By making Maths fun and absorbing at an early stage, concepts can be effectively communicated to young minds. As a result, this will pave way for future success.
(The writer is Principal, Global Indian International School, Chinchwad.)