Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018

Mathematics – Whose cup of Tea?

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March 29, 2018

Mathematics – Whose cup of Tea?

It is true that Math as a subject is losing its sheen among school children. Nowadays, we find very few avid learners of Math. Somehow, I feel, we as teachers are unable to relate Math to the real world. Without real roots, a tree can’t survive. That is why the Mathematical tree is not able to expand its branches which should have happened by the end of the last century. Sadly, Math has a phobia attached to it.

One day, when I was on my way to the class, a student asked me, ‘Why did the mathematical tree fall over?’ I was thinking what to reply as I was quite ignorant of what he wants to know from me.

Interrupting my thought process, he said, ‘The mathematical tree fell because it had no real roots. Just a joke, Ma’am.’

I smiled but his question kept echoing in my mind.

It is true that Math as a subject is losing its sheen among school children. Nowadays, we find very few avid learners of Math. Somehow, I feel, we as teachers are unable to relate Math to the real world. Without real roots, a tree can’t survive. That is why the Mathematical tree is not able to expand its branches which should have happened by the end of the last century. Sadly, Math has a phobia attached to it.

A Math Teacher walks into the classroom, turns towards the board and starts a struggle between a marker and the board. She fills each and every space on the board, turns towards the class and explains. Half of the class gets demotivated with her expressionless face and rest half with the math written on the board. No wonder 80% of the students say that MATH is the acronym of Mental Abuse To Humans.

As she enters the staffroom, somebody points out Mrs S has come; only she can deal with numbers.

Mrs S – What is your query?

Ma’am, please solve this, as you know, I used to be very weak in math – a teacher said this handing over a piece of paper with a Math sum written on it.

Who is responsible for this step motherly treatment to math?

I think, we as individuals, we as a part of society consider math as an untouchable subject. We regard math as Greek which we can’t learn and even pass on this attitude to the next generation.

The other day, I observed that a boy of around ten years of age was selling fruits and vegetables. He could calculate mentally the price of apples which weighed 1kg 75gm when the cost of 1kg was Rs 150.

I was so amazed at his quick and correct mental calculation of Rs 161.25, that I could not resist inquiring about his math capabilities. He replied, since I am the lone earner in my family, I need to be careful in dealing with money and somehow with time I learned on my own. His reply made me ponder that when an illiterate can learn it on his own, then why does everyone find math difficult? What is the reason that every other day, we need to find new teaching strategies to teach math?

Just as tea is offered when you enter as a guest and you give your choices after that – I prefer green tea or tea without milk or with a lot of milk, less sugar and so on, in the same way to make mathematics every one’s cup of tea , we as teachers need to change some of its ingredients according to the requirements and serve it to the children in an attractive way so that they at least start fiddling with Math and once they start fiddling with it, they will learn on their own .

I know learning happens gradually, then why we as parents, teachers very often lose our patience and very casually we say that it is not your cup of tea? Why we, most of the time, fail to relate Math with the real world?

During teaching of Integers to class VII, a teacher was going perfectly with Bloom’s Taxonomy when a student asked –

Mr Q has Rs 10; Miss R borrows Rs 7 and Miss G borrows Rs 8 from him. So how much money he is left with?

10-7-8 = -5.

A student of the same class reciprocated saying that this question is incorrect. How can you borrow more from a person when he has a smaller amount?

Yes, he is right but here comes the teacher’s role so that the class remain inspired to frame a practical question. Instead of criticising the student for framing a wrong question and shattering his confidence, a teacher can easily initiate the talk like: Miss G has to wait for some time to get the borrowed amount as Mr Q can only give Rs 3 till Mr Q arranges for more money or Miss G has to borrow Rs 5 from somebody else.

To catch the pupils’ attention regarding money problems –

Start with small a activity – Who does not want to earn crores by playing games like KBC?

So, let’s play –

In order to get the full amount in this game, I am going to give you two options:

Option A: You get a cheque of 1 crore.

Option B: Starting from Re 1, every day it doubles like Re 1 on the first day, Rs 2 on the second day, Rs 4 on the third day and so on for 30 days.

Which option do you choose?

Let them work on it and I am sure, finally one student will definitely choose the right option B as after 30 days it will fetch you Rs 53 crores 68 lakhs 70 thousand 9 hundred 12.

Very casually, while teaching Math, we say -This is a difficult problem, so Pay Attention. What do you mean by this, teachers? I think, perhaps while trying to attract the learner’s attention, you are distracting him and creating a void in his mind that he will not understand this problem in one go.

Children remember Pi because of the movie Life of Pi. Everybody knows Pi as a star of the movie but only few can tell you about actual π, as with π their bonding is still incomplete.

I think teachers in general, are responsible for making Math class boring and monotonous. Why we take x or y for any unknown quantity? Why is the child not allowed to keep unknown quantity as the first letter of his name?

Why do we take the volume of cylinder as πr2h not as pi* z * z * a

where pi is π, z is the radius of pizza, a is the height of pizza including its topping ?

Math is poetry. The moment you say this in the class, everyone will start laughing. I think this is the right time to strike the nail as it is hot. I mean to say – A little humour can make the class lively, and then you can complete your sentence – Math is poetry of logical ideas.

Why is an obtuse angle always upset?

Because it is never right (It can never be a right angle).

Why is a right angle right? Because it can write.

Why acute angle is so popular? Because he is cute.

A cute

What is Breadth asking length ? Have you read it.

B read th

Why will we discuss the equilateral triangle later? Because it says later.

Equi later al

Why is an isosceles triangle to be discussed now, why not scalene triangle? Because it has given an SOS

I sos celes

Like this, we can capture a child’s attention by creating our own vocabulary.
The or em —- Two things can happen – You can do it or not.
Necessary —- You can’t cut necessary condition until you pay cess.
Obtuse —- use it
Proof — You need to go the roof
Examples —- See ample of them
Perimeter —- Rim’s meter
Circumference —- Sir come Frence
Whole — has a hole (starts with a zero)
Contradiction —– has no diction
Intersection() —-Inter section competition
Matrices — Solve with a trick
Determinant —–Try to terminate all numbers and get more zeros
Probability —– Rob the ability
Dimensional ——- Mansion it has, so it is very impressive
Product — goes straight away into your brain duct
Modulus — Mod u and us
Postulate — Post them as we are getting late
Rational – One rat running around the ration
Irrational – Two rats running around for the ration.
Integrate – Grate the problems.
Inverse – In Verse
Quadratic —This Dr has a cure

Like this, endless mathematical words can be amputated which can bring a smile on the student’s face, thus, making him interested in this subject.

One child after watching a TED talk in English lesson (In this talk, one intellectual was praising English but at the end, asked the audience, ‘What is the use of differentiation for which I spend sleepless nights in preparing for Math exam. If I had studied English the same way, I would be equivalent to Shakespeare’), straightaway comes to me and asks, ‘What is the use of differentiation? If it is of no use, then why are we studying it?’

We need to give a logic that why are we teaching it, not just because CBSE has planned but it’s importance in real life.

I told the child, ’Differentiation is actually everything we do in our life from moving, changing position to switching on an appliance or filling air in a balloon with respect to time. Anything which changes with respect to another variable is differentiation. It is like we are studying from years but now it has a name ‘Differentiation’ attached to it in class XII.

One day I ended my class on a positive note with the following statement:

‘Our power of desires grows in G.P. (Geometric Progression) but our power to satisfy these desires grows in A.P. (Arithmetic Progression)’. I was surprised to receive endless explanations to the above statement and I had to call the Economics teacher to finally decide the winning team.

There are several innovative ideas for spicing up the Math class. The need is to find them and inculcate them effectively in your Math teaching strategies.

Keep adding spice to make Math everyone’s cup of tea.

Sweety Rastogi is a teaching practitioner who has been advocating for liberating the education process to accommodate change. She considers teachers as catalyst of change in transforming education process. She call herself a co-learner in the journey which she is undertaking with her students. The author has 18 years’ experience inthe field of education as a teacher, mentor, curriculum planner and moderator. She is presently working as HOD (Math)in Learning Paths School, Mohali and can be reached at

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