“The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell.” — St. Augustine
While it is a universally acknowldeged fact that children dont need any reason to hate studies in the generic entirety, Mathematics, as a subject has acquired a formidable position in students’ list of subjects they hate. No matter if you are the class nerd or the one perenially-on-bunk , there has been that moment when each one in school has questioned the very existence of maths in the curriculum, or at least went as far as getting frustrated with the subject.
Astonishing as it may seem, we have despised different subjects over the years, history and physics being the top contenders for the second place, but Mathematics has been so consistent, just like its teachers who themselves forget all properties and identities and formulae, unless the question has landed from NCERT which they have been teaching from, since 20 years.
Here are ten reasons children hate mathematics and its inclusion in the curriculum.
Numerous curriculum frameworks may be worked out, conventons may be signed, and a plethora of documents churned out, however rote-memorisation approach remains inherent in this subject. Despite revolutionary reforms taking place, the outmoded approach of presenting a problem, providing a solution and making the students repeat an excercise until they have mastered it by-heart is a regressive practise in the present system of education. This is especially true of proofs, theorems etc where variables are pre-supposed to be some relevant value.
9) Incompetent teachers
A great challenge today is to find a suitable teacher to teach the complex subject of maths by traversing the ambiguities of the terrains of trigonometry, calculus, mensuration and try to unfold the intricacies of a student’s mind. While no teacher can do so with utmost dexterity, the existence of some really cranky mathematics teachers evince the sordid state of affairs. Since this subject requires immense effort, practise and consistency to master, the teachers are often found making an unabashed exhibition of their fallibility, thereby corroding the students’ trust in them, and in the fact that the subject can actually be mastered
As soon as a child enters the middle school (nowadays even before that), the parents’ primary concern is to get the best tuition classes and the most adept tutor for the child. This is as a consequence of the previous point. When teachers are incompetent or not interested, or for that matter they are not paying heed to the problems of each student separately on the grounds that in so few periods, individual treatment isnt feasible, parents seek solace in those money-churning coaching classes. But the peculiar thing is that maths is the only subject which is accorded the status which makes it almost compulsory to attend tuitions. It does not ensure that children will become better at cracking the problems, but it does ensure that students end up hating maths all the more.
7) Too many books to refer
From our school days, we all remember that NCERT was never enough. Never. Hence we had at least a couple of other books to refer. This meant that apart from that insufficient gobbledegook in NCERT, we had to ‘practice for similar questions’ from other books. And much to the students’ despair, it did not the serve the purpose it claimed to, it didnt bring clarity in our concepts, but handed us even more complex problems to scratch our grey matter to. And the size or weight or dimensions of those books were no relief either. And then various publishing houses brought in books with sample questions to aggravate the already pitiful condition of the students.
6) Formulaes and other laws
Countlessformulaes, identities, axioms, theorems, etc pose a twin problem, one is to remember them, and another is to suitably apply them when required. The latter is a daunting task. Because when it comes to the application of these identities and proofs, it seems that maths is an inexact science, without any definite way to solve problems. It appears all arbitrary, and random and ambiguous, and solutions presented in the book are to be worshipped, not to mention crammed and imprinted in the mind.
The pervasive calculations in every branch of mathematics is another parameter upon which children hate it. Calculations are a pivotal reason that makes it highly loathesome for kids. Those who are not fond of number-crunching find it extremely arduous and laborious. Calculation mistakes often lead to students losing marks, and in an education system which is synonymous with examination system, this is a major put-off. Also, lentgthy calculations suck the enthusiasm out of students to proceed with the solution. Moreover, students question the policy of prohibiting the use of calculators, when in real life calculators are used extensively.
4) Practical application, or the lack of it
Children find it almost ludicruous that the problems they are solving seem to be too ridden with complex identities and algorithm to be used in real life. Although they are also taught application-based questions as a different genre of questions, they find little utility of deploying calculus in their furniture unless ofcourse they are experts who are supposed to get it right, in which case it becomes essential to love maths. Here too, is a catch. They are made to learn higher level maths without ensuring they have mastered the basics. The moment they learn of an application, they convince themselves that they are not required to use maths in their daily chores, except ofcourse addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, that too, in the absence of a calculator.
3) Time consuming
Undoubtedly, maths by virtue of being a ‘practical’ subject elicits the deployment of a major chunk of time to this subject. It is not unusual to see children peparing a time-table where they might not even study other subjects but have a specially demarcated slot for studying maths. And this is sadly not because they love it so much, but because they fear being called dumb. Hence, this explains the tuitions. Practice is what makes maths interesting as well as prone to dislike by students. The need to practice incessantly to furnish the concepts, and to practice from varied sources does not find a supporter in children. Bereft of practice, the subject doesnt make sense, and with diligent, consistent, undying practice, students have time for little else, much to their chagrin.
2) The domain of the gifted
The belief remains that mastering maths is the task of the ‘gifted’, like Albert instein, or human computer Shakuntala Devi. Hence, this leads to discontent among the students, for the students fear being judged if they score low. Maths has a very respected status in society and achieving profiecience in it is a matter of privilege unlike other subjects. This is the cause of the widespread aversion to maths, and the people who discovered the theorems, proofs, theories. In fact, studies have also suggested that Einstein, the revered mathematician possessed a unique brain. Now that suffices to testify that mathematics indeed is the domain of the gifted.
1) The pressure to score 100
While the pressure to score well is not peculiar to maths, the pressure to score a flawless 100 is. It is a practical subject which always has only one correct solution, hence the child with sufficient practice, dedication, hardwork and time should be able to score a perfect 100. This pressure is another major repellant. Students, for the fear of being chided and derided if they dont achieve the perfect score, move into the zone where they hate maths beyond what it itself can measure. And there’s no formula to calculate their hatred.