## Over half of second-year students flunk math exam; teachers say this is a growing problem

This year, nearly 60 per cent of second-year Anna University students have failed in the mathematics paper in their third semester.

“In a class of 75 in electronics and communications engineering (ECE), nearly 50 have arrears in mathematics and this is supposed to be the brightest class, as many of the students were toppers in the class XII board exams,” says a third-year ECE student of the College of Engineering, Guindy.

The situation is not very different in electrical, mechanical, bio-medical and other fields of engineering.

“In June, when the class had a poor pass percentage, the university took steps to look into the issue. Faculty members were immediately changed and we were allotted experienced professors, instead of lecturers,” says another student. “But many of these professors too refrain from taking classes,” he adds.

Students say this year, the mathematics paper M3, which mostly focuses on integral calculus, differentiation and integration, had questions other than solved illustrations, which was unexpected. “We have a reference book with solved illustrations. Beyond that, we practise problems that repeatedly crop up in previous years’ questions papers,” says a student. “This time, however, nothing like that was in the paper,” he said.

While admitting this is a serious and growing problem, teachers and students blame it on different things.

Students say teachers avoid solving tough questions in classrooms, while teachers blame it on lack of time. “There are six subjects in a semester of three months. In barely 60 hours of teaching, we are expected to finish an extensive syllabus. Most students are not strong in the fundamentals of the subject and so it is impossible to start from scratch,” said a lecturer who teaches mathematics to first-year students.

“There are at least 20 students in the class who have scored a centum in their class XII maths exam, but only about three of them secured above 70 per cent in the mathematics exam here. Many have failed too,” she added.

The problem begins as soon as the student enters college, say teachers. For instance, last week, first-year students of colleges affiliated to Anna University attempted the mathematics paper, which according to many of them, was ‘very tough’.

“All the usual eight-mark questions were only for two marks in the paper. There were also typographical errors that confused students,” said a first-year engineering student of a private college.

N. Balachandran, former professor, Anna University, says the inability of engineering students to cope with mathematics in the college curriculum has always existed but has worsened over the years.

“Engineering mathematics has to do with application. Most students are not ready for that because they way they approach mathematics in school is very text-book oriented. That does not work in college,” he said. “Students seldom take an interest in mathematics. Few go to the library, borrow books and try out sums on their own. For most, it is a subject to be done away with as soon as possible,” he added.

Keywords: Anna University semester results, mathematics paper, students performance, poor pass percentage

## In response to Prof.Anant observations, I wish to add ADD the following points: 1. This scenario DEMANDS orientation of MATHS teachers to deal with more EXAMPLES in class dealing with PRACTICAL situations.VC ANNA Univ may kindly organize a "Week long Orientation Program" for MATHS teachers, RECORD THEM, put it on WEB and other media so that MUCH larger number of those interested in understanding them. OR 2. Even HINDU Edu can put it on its website for all Indians to benefit.3. When there are too much problems in traffic, we crate "fly overs" or Tunnels to ease traffic and reach destination. In a similar way "Maths Problem Solving " can be EASILY inculcated if one ADOPTS "Figure Out the Logic with Knowledge of Current And Previous" vi.FOLK-CAP way is followed. and all MATHS books are REFORMATTED into

4-column way/each page so that all currently mushed info APPEARS stright in same page a topic is discussed.[cemca.org/disted/Sudhindra_BS__0238.pdf] 4. WILL to Learn/ADOPT necessary!

## I went on a voluntary teaching assignment from the US to a Tamil Nadu private universisty and taught two engineering subjects for the third year students recently. The materials I covered contained mathematics that the students were supposed to have had in their first two years of formal Mathematics subject. But what I found disturbing was that there was no process and culture to consider "home work" seriously as is the case in the US. University of Berkely has large classes. There the teaching assistants generally grade the home work and conduct tutorial classes to assist students. Unless grades are assigned for home work, proctored appropriately and teaching assistants are employed, the situation will not improve. To understand the fundamentals and retain the concepts, home work assignments are essenttial especially in fundamental subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry etc. Hope the educators will listen!

## Classroom size is not an issue. I've studied abroad and attended classes with strengths greater than 75. Most students in those classes did well and thoroughly understood the subject (by the end of the course).

One of the biggest issues we face is that the final exams for most courses carry the largest chunk of the grade. As a result, students only start studying towards the end of the semester rather than throughout. Assignments count for a very small percentage of the final score. If assignments were given equal importance, this will engourage (maybe force) students to work harder throughout the semester. It will also make reduce the stress of doing well on the final exam.

## Interesting read!! Goes back to the numbers game! 75 students in a class!!!

Faculty:Student ratio is out the window here. Faculty get frustrated at having to teach

a large class, and grade all by themselves. Why not introduce the concept of student

teaching assistants with the seniors acting as aids to both the faculty and the

student. Also, why not reduce the number of entrants into each engineering college.

I am sure there are many colleges associated with Anna University. How is this article

related to Anna University as a whole as opposed to one or two affiliated colleges? If

a great majority of the colleges have a poor success rate, then how about looking

into the administrative section of Anna University (hiring policies of faculty)?

One thing that is lacking in the Indian educational system is an Application oriented

edification. May be as a transition from XII standard to college, one can incorporate

some applied science even with respect to Mathematics.

## This article clearly proves the fact that the current education system in India lacks standard.

If this is the state of affairs in a top notch institution, then what could be the scenario in

private colleges? Education system needs to be knowledge oriented rather than memory oriented as it is right now. In a recent ranking of world universities, no Indian university could reach within the top 300, surprising considering the fact that we're the second largest country in terms of population.

Indian population is not short of knowledgeable people, however critical planning of educational curriculum starting from schools is the need of the hour. Only knowledge and educational excellence can keep our country tall in this evolving multipolar global economy.

## This clearly shows that scoring centum in their school exams could also be, because of mugging up all the problems with their solutions from the text book.It was those time(till 2005) atleast after our public exams we used to prepare for entrance exams where we had enough time to research on our subjects ,the questions asked on the entrance made us to think where to apply different concepts we read in maths, i hope there must be a entrance for Maths atleast which is a must for Engineering students.I came to know that integration is nothing but summing up of elements broken into small parts only after my public exam only during the preparation of my entrance exam.I m not blaming the teachers who take the subjects during our school days,as the teachers are in equal pressure as students to bring a best results for their students , the time where the students are at ease of pressure is after the completion of exams ,so i hope it would be good idea to have a entrance for maths postexams

## Dear all, Thanks for the comments. Basically one should understand that the understanding of mathematics requires a good listening capacity, thinking capacity and an attitude to do things independently. Common entrance test was conducted which filtered the students so that right candidate gets admission. Since our politicians wanted to have their own engineering colleges to earn money, the rule was made to abolish common entrance test. As for the schooling is concerned, there are very few calculus mathematics which they clear easily or left them in choice. In Engineering college, calculus is one of the important topic which applies in all their equations. So understanding and making thorough is very important. As a teacher pointed out, it is not easy to teach from the fundamentals due to lack of time. The teachers can conduct special classes, but the ego of the students prevent them from attending the special class "having come to engineering !!!! college, why should I attend".

## I am amused to see the "we were made to memorize" crowd out in full volume. I think someone needs to point out the obvious---no one made anyone memorize. It is a *choice* to memorize as a shortcut.

As a professor who has travelled in multiple countries, I don't think I am overreaching when I say there is no paucity of good teachers in S. India. The syllabus is excellent at least till 12th grade. The texts are largely well written, and the breadth of material is impressive.

Where things break down are the easy exams that are little more than examples straight from texts, one that also distinguishes dramatically between students who score 1% apart. This obviously rewards rote learning instead of understanding. But why do we get those exams?

Well, if exams did probe understanding, I am inclined to bet that a majority crying hoarse about "rote" will be the ones out on streets shouting for the head of the person setting the exams! But so much easier to just blame others, isn't it?

## This is the problem when rote learning is practiced from school days.

Children are almost never exposed to the creative way of looking at

problems while in school. Its sad to see that the faculty in colleges is

also continuing in the same path with the excuse of not having enough

time. Well now we have a monster in hand, don't we?

## I would say that these are the effects of removing the Entrance Exam. People tend to stick to the problems in the book rather than giving a thought about what the problem really is and how it is used in reality.

## The issue here is the way the education system is being crafted in

India and TN especially. The govt has implemented the no failing

policy till class 8 that has sapped the motivation of both students

and teacher, the students take it easy and teachers are frustrated as

children dont want to learn. This is further compounded by the TN

board that lavishes marks on students and we see a windfall of centums

every year leading to a misplaced notion of the students capability.

Finally when these students land up at the college wanting an

engineering degree which most opt for only since they have the high

marks but nothing else in terms of aptitude or capability they are

left high, dry and exposed.

## The main cause is students are poor in fundamentals like differentiation

and integration. Without knowing these two, one can not pass 3rd

semester Mathematics as all 5 units requires severe differentiation and

integration knowledge. Generally, any where in India, Mathematics

teachers teach well, sincere to teach and honest. So no need to blame

teachers in general.

## This clearly indicates that students are tuned to Konar notes style of reading - can mug up only solved illustrations and cannot do anything more. It is like the repeat of Junior fellowship exam some years ago where the toppers at univeristy levels scoring more than 98% were failed in that common exam conducted for joining in to PHD courses. This is a shame on the way our education system is going towards to.....

## This is nothing but the reflection of the quality of secondary

education in the State. The need of the hour is to improve the

teaching/evaluation of mathematics at secondary education. The

educationists can explore the possibility of introducing applied

mathematics as an optional subject at secondary education, which can

be opted by interested students and which need not be computed for

pass-out or engineering entrance; at least a glimpse of the subject in

the engineering education can be seen and experienced by the students

and take appropriate suitable decision for their higher education.

## In an earlier brief i had given a SOLUTION to failures in MATHS by Engg students suggesting to FOLLOW FOLK CAP way ! Going further, why We need a MATHS literate society ? Every one needs/works for R-K-M, [Roti, Kapada - Makhaan] To get better RTM one needs Education. In edu terms, R is READing {Recognize Expressions and Associated Direction - may so a vector in maths sense!] thereby acquire K-Knowledge. and M to MATHS. Unfortunately in our Edu system, bifurcation occurs at 9/10 & above class into Science & Commerce streams thereby students FAILS to get Maths related to Day-day problems. For example, how interest rates are calculated ? - EMI debts in this credit card era! or any other loans viz House building, Education abroad, farmers loan etc. Attractive advts by banks or by consumer product companies makes every one ned to be fluent with basic maths viz Zero process fee, one-rupee above cost price, 3.6,9 EMIs etc. added to this hidden Govt. 12.36% tax etc. MATHS literacy NECESSARY

## This situation is all because of parents " my ward need to score more marks ....centum" rather than encouraging them to understand, more over the schools support the parents not the education, to achieve this schools starts coaching ...not teaching. parents please change your mind set so that students can learn something than to get more marks.

I did my schooling at a boarding school near erode, life ended there...no lateral thinks was allowed, even the essays in english had to be written the way it was given in the text book ....when i wrote on my own in my exam my english teacher awarded a zero....which is impossible to be done.

## The article is making a very incomplete comparison. All it does is state the fact that many people in one class of ECE ended up getting poor grades in mathematics. What about the folks in other batches in ECE (there are at the least 2 batches) what about the previous year's results? Iam an alum of CEG and I know how the Mathematics dept works. It is among the best. They usually set a very high benchmark for teaching. I cant beleive the allegation made by one of the students that the Profs dont come to teach. All the article does is once again highlight the problem and does nothing seriously towards analysing the root cause of the issue!! Iam not sure if that is good journalism.

## Yes, I fully agree. Many of the bright students are having arrears due to poor coaching which is affecting their future studies as well as employment.

## i think maximum no.of students are from private schools,there,they give

more and more model tests for maths exam.if u ask any student from any

part of book,he will tell the ans. for the question............so they

are memorize all the prob.,this is initial stage of FAILURE!!!!!!!!!!!!

## Quality lecturer and professors are main reason. I agree with students.

## our education system too much book oriented, the high school students do not learn to practically apply a concept in solving problem in board exams and hence its a world of difference when they are in college.

Secondly, we admit students based on merit, caste and creed, however we do not have a system where we can qualitatively evaluate students aspiration and interest in particular subject. Our admission system should change such that matter what your background is, if you can demonstrate your interest in particular subject we will admit you.

A student may have failed or scored low marks but have high IQ. That is failure of our evaluation system and not that of the student.

## In India we were never taught the application of the Integral & Differential Math (Calculus) from application point of view. I did my Masters in Statistics from a prominent university in Tamilnadu and was a top ranker. However, I never knew what was the real purpose of that area of study even after joining a job. After moving to USA, I had a chance to read thru' the high school Calculus books of my sons, and realized the real applications of the subject. In USA, high school students are taught about the real life applications of Calculus (Differentiation & Integration.) All the home works and exams are based on the real life applications and not theory alone. But in India, we are made to memorize all the theorems and related theory and vomit in exams. That is where we go wrong in our school system. Indian government & the states should send expert panels to USA to understand how creative they should be in teaching high school level subjects.

## Due to the influence of a few exam-oriented coaching schools, the question papers for Higher Secondary Examinations contain only from the textbook and 60% of them are worked examples. Students do not develop problem-solving skills. Their knowledge is very much limited and skewed. School Education needs radical changes in content and pedagogy. It doesn't mean toughening up the curriculum but changes in classroom techniques.

## I am not surprised!! I was a 2006 pass out from anna university and

"luckily", all my question papers were set based on illustrated

examples. However i seriously doubt i would have cleared if the

questions were outside the textbooks.

I am a civil engineer today and the way engineering was taught still

haunts me as i find it very difficult to apply the concepts as i never

understood them during my college days. It even led to embarrassing

situations and still does.

I am doing my masters in UK right now and guess what? I am not

expected to remember "Formulae"!!, because respective formulae are mentioned in the question paper itself. This allows me to understand

the concept and apply it instead of spending my mind to "mug up" the formulae. When someone understand the concept or "mechanism" (from engineering perspective), he/she doesn't have to worry how twisted the question is. After all, the answers for problems we are going to face in our

real life will not be in the textbooks.

## Dear Reporter and Editor,

Anna university has around 500 constituent and affiliated colleges. So,

Please be specific!..

Do you mean "College of Engineering, Guindy"?. Because the photo above

has been taken in CEG.

Please Email the Editor