Why can’t Karnataka do the math?

Is Karnataka — which boasts of some of the highest number of engineering colleges in the country — failing to popularise mathematics, which holds the key to cutting edge research and innovation in technology?

It seems so with just a few of its students evincing interest in the Regional Mathematical Olympiad (RMO), the qualifying exam to represent the State at the Indian National Mathematical Olympiad (INMO).

Toppers from each State appear for the INMO and the top 30 or 35 from this lot are hand-picked and trained for nearly a month at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai.

Team of 6 to 8

The best of this group — about 6 to 8 students — are selected to represent the country at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), which is the world championship in mathematics and open to students studying between classes 9 and 11.

And none from Karnataka has qualified to represent India at the IMO in the last 20 years.

B. Sury, professor of Indian Statistical Institute, Bengaluru, who is the State coordinator for RMO Karnataka, said in an email to The Hindu that each year, around 1,200 students from the State appear for the RMO of which the number of girls is a little less than 400.

Most students in PU colleges and high schools in Karnataka are not aware of mathematical Olympiad competitions except for certain schools in Bengaluru city, he added.

“And, even among those who are aware, parental pressure forces them to focus on CET to gain admission to engineering colleges,” said T.P. Dinesh, an alumnus of IIT Madras and the founder of Innovative Mathematical Science Institute in Mysuru, which trains students for the mathematical Olympiad.

Toughest in the world

According to experts, the mathematical Olympiad is among the toughest in the world and the solutions too have to be out-of-the box.

But the prevailing education system, with its focus on marks, does not stimulate creative thinking. which is impeding the emergence of new talent in the subject.

And why is this important? Academics aver there is a co-relation between the mathematical prowess of its people and economic development, fuelled by technical advancement.

As V.S. Prasad of the Department of Mathematics at the Regional Institute of Education (RIE)-NCERT, Mysuru, explained: “Innovation in engineering and science, to foster the country’s technical progress, hinges on the mathematical ability of its human resource.”

None from Karnataka has qualified to represent India in the world championship in maths in the last 20 years

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 6:18:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/why-cant-karnataka-do-the-math/article8605202.ece

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