A problem that’s been left unaddressed for long…

The other day, my friend introduced me to his niece Aakriti. All of 7, Aakriti is a sweet little chatterbox. In the course of my conversation with her (over black forest ice cream ofcourse), I was told that she hated Maths. Now, first and foremost, hate is too strong a word to be used by a 7 year old. This led me to prod a little more in order to arrive at a valid reasoning for this cute little angel to feel this way.

While doing so, I realized that this was nothing new. A throwback to my schooldays would reveal that most of my classmates did not really like the Maths class.

Now that I look at it, I feel the problem lies in Maths being persevered as something that is way out of the league of an average person. As much as most of us would hate to admit, deep down we do consider ourselves to be ‘average’ in most things. The state of primary Mathematics education in the country is another thing to blame. Most people reading this would have encountered some 6-7 Maths teachers in their school days. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think that it will not be an exaggeration to say that not more than one or two of them took the initiative of clearing the air and ensuring that the child-you did not perceive Mathematics as a dry, solitary and joyless drill that one had to endure in order to move on to the next class.

Admit it or not, from the moment we are born, we are surrounded by a mathematical ocean. The sooner a child learns to brace this and learns to swim in it, the simpler life becomes. As teachers, it is important to make children realize that mathematics is not about rote learning formula and applying the same on abstract topics. I am no PhD in Maths. But one thing that I know for sure is the fact that Mathematics is not only about arriving at the correct numerical value of an answer. It is about asking the right questions. Going beyond mindlessly crunching numbers, Mathematics is all about newer ways of seeing problems by combing insight with imagination.

Having said all of this, I think you will now see eye to eye with me when I say that Mathematics is a sense in itself. Just like the other senses (such as touch, smell, sight, etc) it allows us to perceive reality which would otherwise be intangible to us. All of you will be familiar with things like the sense of rhythm and the sense of music. Mathematics is the sense of logical connections, patterns and relationships.

Don’t believe me yet? Well let me put this infront of you through an example.

A small yet essential part of the landform of the country is its river deltas. A closer look at it would reveal the beautiful geometry that has gone into it. The moment I spell out ‘geometry’, most of you would have already pictured triangles and hexagons. The fact is, geometry is the science of all shapes and this meeting of the land and the rivers has an undeniable pattern to it. Each part of the river delta (complete with its twists and turns) is a micro version of the larger structure.

Similar patterns are observed in large trees, snowflakes and a number of other naturally occurring things wherein each small bit is a mathematical replication of the larger piece. In fact, there is a striking similarity between the patterns of a river delta with that of a large branching tree, the blood vessels branching out in our body or that of a lightning bolt striking the night sky. Isn’t it humbling to know that something that is a part of every cubic centimeter of your body is what you share with towering trees, beautiful river deltas and raging storms? I feel that if a child is told all of this while being introduced to the beautiful science of geometry, his or her take on life will be completely different.

Like any other sense that we possess, the mathematical sense of an individual can be refined with practice. This requires years of dedicated hard work and proper guidance. Naturally, some people are born with sharper senses than the rest of us. However, this does not mean that others are completely devoid of this sense. I am someone who has been wearing specks for most of my life now. When I was in Class 6 my ophthalmologist told me that this was something to do with my genetics and since then I have wrestled with my sense of sight. I know I am not alone and 1 in every 3 people n the world wears spectacles in an effort to have a corrected vision. There are thousands others who use contact lens. Now, none of us would actually go on to say, “Seeing has always been a struggle for me. Guess I am not really a seeing kind of person”.

Yet, so many people say the exact same thing about Mathematics. I don’t know why things are this way. I don’t know a sure shot solution to this. But one thing that I know for sure is the fact that if the innocent Aakriti who is yet to see the highs and lows of life is confident of her hatred towards Maths, the fault lies with the system and not with her. Something needs to be done about it before it is too late.