An Academic Love/Hate Saga
Through learning we improve our understanding on everything and ultimately better our lives. Every subject has got something special that keeps drawing learners towards it and sustains the interest. Mathematics is a unique subject in one aspect. Like no other subjects, when it comes to mathematics the learners take polar sides- lovers or haters- nothing in between. I have come across students, out of hatred, coming up with hilarious expansions to MATH calling it ‘Mental Abuse To Humans’ or ‘The Most Awful Thing from Hell’. Certainly across the globe the percentage of Math haters is always much larger than that of Math lovers. But why is this happening? Math teachers across the globe are desperate to kindle pupils’ enthusiasm and ignite some interest towards the subject. There hasn’t been a notable progress but has actually seen a major setback.
Math is still one of the favourite subjects for kids in the lower classes. But somehow when they grow up the dislike towards the subject also grows along. I remember the famous quip ‘I loved mathematics until they started mixing up alphabets with numbers’. Many of us would certainly have come across this but to me this remains as a strong indicator representing the real problem with taking mathematics to kids. This simple line indicates that students love mathematics while it was purely arithmetic and in higher grades they find it hard to correlate with their subject.
This is simply because in the lower grades pupils find direct applications to the math they learn in their classrooms in their day-to-day life. I still remember the pride of achievement I had on counting literally everything I came across. That ability to apply the learnt concept directly and successfully increases the confidence in the learner and this is the biggest motivator of all, enhancing further learning. On the contrary the learner is unable to connect his learnt content to his everyday life directly, hence begins to lose his/her interest in the subject.
Mathematics and Science, Physics to be precise, are inseparable. Following history’s timeline one could find that the major achievements in the field of Mathematics are closely entwined with the history of Physics. In fact most of the eminent physicists are mathematicians as well. Whenever some new chapter opens in the field of physics and the existing mathematical tools are inadequate a new gate opens up in math and this is how the growth of math could be better traced. In other words science in general uses mathematics more as a language of its scientific expression rather than as a subject.
Thus mathematics in a way exactly works like a language to an individual. If one understands the language he/she is able to grasp anything that is communicated through it. This is the main reason why people are bound to either like or dislike math, much like digital outputs with just a zero or one, to quote analogically.
To physicists mathematics is an abstract language through which the realities of nature can be precisely summed up which might otherwise require volumes of verbal text in formal language. But the problem is those who understand the abstract mathematical language- full of symbols and notations- are a small group of elites. Therefore it is essential to present the concepts and ideas in laymen language too. Hence they employ both and achieve their goal to a greater extent.
Relatively this is the aspect where mathematics falls shot. Therefore it finds it hard to hold its grip on the learners. Language by itself has its limitations and we exchange our ideas and thoughts though this having no choice. In case of mathematics the symbols and notations used are even more complicated and abstract that it becomes hard for everyone to understand the topics discussed. The reason math seriously fails to reach the learners is the lack of reading material in laymen language so that the learner gets to know what he actually learns in the subject
Arithmetic has direct applicability in life. This creates good interest in many students. Probably algebra is the first abstract topic that a math student comes across. There begins a sense of dissociation from the learning and its practical applications from the student point of view. When angles enter in the text through Trigonometry math gets more complicated and with the commencement of Calculus the learner totally looses his/her ability to correlate the learnt content to his real life. This elicits a notion that whatever learnt in this subject has literally no connection with life and everything learnt her e is just for learning sake only.
Not a single text book I’ve come across in my entire student life has taken pain to introduce the concepts of mathematics linking it to practical life. Even though academic books invariably have a formal introduction of every topic it’s obvious that they devote hardly a page or two for introducing the concept to be explored and directly jump into serious talks with symbols those most of the students aren’t able to relate with at all. It is because of this Mathematics to date remains as a darling of a few.
To bridge the gap between serious and abstract text what we need is to have supplementing text in verbal language to attract young minds towards the subject. Sure the mathematics hate story can be turned into love story with an attractive twist in the text.
Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the Universe.
God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world
– Paul Dirac.
Make this beautiful darling a little more approachable.