I had always wondered if Mathematics is way simpler than it is made out to be, and the real reason for it being misunderstood around the world is the way that it is taught. What could be the ‘missing link’ to crack the code and have way fewer people fear the subject?
I chose to become a maths teacher, as I grew up feeling extremely uncomfortable with the way maths was taught in high school and decided to challenge this model and question the hatred around the subject, which has been misunderstood for a long time.
After completing my studies, I joined Teach for India with the intention of challenging the myth and the stigma surrounding maths.
In the course of time, I along with my students worked on finding out the ‘missing links’ and developing a model, which could help students not just score well but love maths as a subject.
Learning is a continuous process and Teach for India believes in the same. It recognises the practices it learns the maximum from as the ‘Transformational Impact Journey’ (TIJ). The model that my class and I were able to float, shattering the negative notions about maths, got recognised as the ‘Transformational Impact Journey Maths Specialist.’
The basic pillars of the ‘Maths Model’ included:
(a) A pro-logic approach rather than just working on memorising the formula.
(b) Treating a concept as a concept and not really working on identifying the ‘grades’ it is included in. It established that Math was concept based and mostly independent of grades, exposing kids to take on challenges rather than be intimidated by a ‘scary’ looking sum.
(c) Forming real-life connections with content that is usually considered ‘abstract’.
This made the students solve complex and higher grade problems with ease.
Mastering any subject is a combination of two major C’s— Concept and Confidence, and the challenge for a teacher is NOT to pass on the content/concepts. It is to be able to generate that belief! Appreciating the different styles of learning and being able to prove that maths is within their reach has a far greater effect than just rushing through the content.
Maths, which is one of the ‘nightmares’ for many of the students, needs to be taught in a way which is based on logic and is made more relatable to the real world than simply being thought of as ‘abstract concept.’
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In cases where the using formula was unavoidable, understanding its derivation, and reflecting on the various possibilities and how it actually delivers the right answer, rather than just memorising it, helped the students.
I knew that the model had worked when in the state board exams, 90% of my class scored the highest marks in maths and for the remaining 10%, math was the second highest score. Point being, every single kid was on board!
My students began to look forward to the classes. Prashant Kumar, one of my colleagues, and an IIM-K graduate was stunned and elated to witness students in a ‘festive mood’ for their maths classes every single day!
Happy faces, students confessing their fondness for the subject, had proven that the model had worked.
A model made on mutual respect, personal relationships, generating confidence around numbers, and of course, content!
When my students started doing exceedingly well, I was invited by TEACH South Africa to share the best practices. The same approach that I have talked about above—worked wonders for the students in Johannesburg and students showed the same kind of results that my students were showing back home!
I have met brilliant people in my life who are still scared of maths. There could be many reasons, but according to me, the most important reason is a simple content-based delivery of chapters and no attempt to establish the link between content and confidence.
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If a teacher can convince a set of students that they can—based on practice, constant evaluation, getting them rid of the misconceptions, believing in their merit and making it known to them, it will make them confident of their skills.
Students who are confident of their skills and use logic to interpret the concepts of Math—a fit recipe for success.
To conclude, I would also like to reiterate that we, as teachers, need to reflect on how we can raise a generation of kids who don’t ‘fear’ or ‘hate’ maths but nurture and support them so that they master the subject, and develop a genuine love for it.
(Written by Satyam Mishra and Edited by Gayatri Mishra)