On World Math Day, discover the music of numbers with practical applications.

Today is World Math Day and MetroPlus delves into problem areas in math and how they can be overcome in interesting ways.

While each child is different and so are their struggles, math teacher at Indus International School, Heta Sheth, observes: “Students find algebra challenging. Retention of concepts is another grey area. Students must be encouraged to explore concepts. A student-centric approach will definitely help.”

Students’ attitude towards math is also an obstacle. Anjusha Mathews, a 14-year-old says: “I’m going to be doing my board exams next year and I am absolutely terrified of math. I go for tuitions as well as spend an extra hour on math at home but since I already don’t like math, it becomes really difficult to focus and spend time doing sums. Also, I’m not sure why we need to learn so much math when we wont be using it later in life.”

There are ways to combat Anjusha’s attitude. Prashanth Wesley, mathematics teacher at Baldwin Boys High School, says: “Kids don’t realise they use math on a daily basis. For example, on their birthdays, they bring sweets to school that they need to distribute according to the number of kids in class, the teachers who come in that day, etc. It involves calculation. Many of them travel by bus/auto and they automatically come to learn how much change to give, and so on. If teachers and parents want their kids to take to math, they’ve got to make it very practical so kids don’t look at the subject as one that must be studied only to pass an exam!”

“Using real-life experiences and examples help. Kids think that good mathematicians of yore were extraordinary human beings so I showed my students a presentation on those people’s lives to get them to understand that they were just regular guys who pursued their passion for math. I’ve found that personalised PowerPoint presentations, quizzes and role play are a few classroom methods of teaching math in a more interesting and meaningful way.” With teachers finding newer and more engaging ways to teach math, it is just as important for parents to do the same at home. Heta suggests: “Students enjoy using manipulatives to understand concepts. Games such as Bingo, Treasure hunt, Tic-Tac-Toe, Fastest-finisher and online quizzes keep them hooked. All of these games break the monotony and help students understand the ‘why/how’ of a topic.”

“I’ve found that reading books that have math undertones to children, when they are young, helps develop a liking in them for the subject. When they are growing up, it is good for them to take part in math Olympiads, etc,” says Anu Mohan, a mother of two teenagers. Prashanth adds: “Teaching math well at school is a job only half done. It would be great if parents can help their children develop logical and analytical skills from the time they’re able to understand slightly more complex/abstract situations. Math should be studied when the mind is fresh. I’ve noticed many parents pressurise their kids while teaching math. That is isn’t a good thing.” “Involving kids in everyday situations related to math will help them. Encourage your child to go to the store with you, get him to calculate how much change he needs to get back or even count the number of items purchased. You don’t need to wait for them to come to the tenth grade to learn about banking. Have them maintain a piggy bank in which they can save money, get them to plan how they will use that money later, etc. Most importantly, parents need to stop referring to math as a ‘difficult subject’, especially in front of their kids because when a child think he cannot do something, he gives up even before he tries learning it.” With all these tricks and tips at hand, within the classroom and without, there is hope that students will view math the way Einstein did, as “the poetry of logical ideas”.