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Befriending maths

“How will you pass in mathematics in the boards?” was a question everyone in the class was asking me that day. The results of the midterm examination of Class 9 were out, and I had failed in mathematics by one mark. With tearful eyes, I again scrambled through my reddened answer sheet, hoping to find a totalling mistake somewhere, though I knew the mathematics teacher would not make one. I again hazily looked at the first page. “31,” read the encircled score.

The next day in school, I picked up enough courage to ask the teacher for one grace mark so that I could pass. He agreed because I had scored well in the rest of the subjects. “I’ve increased one mark. Promise me you will do better from now on,” he said. Although I promised him that, I didn’t tell him that howsoever hard I tried to study mathematics, I couldn’t understand an iota of it. I never had a way with numbers. And I used to think that only child prodigies could actually know what an iota was.

The same evening, my anxious and furious mother enrolled me for tuitions with a tutor who looked as old as mathematics itself. She proudly told me that this teacher had been teaching even before she was born. He confirmed that by pulling out a tooth from his jaw, while nostalgically telling us a story of his old haveli in Lahore. He looked more like a chirpy old grandpa, than a stern mathematics teacher.

When he asked me about my marks, I replied shamefully, “31”. He smiled his toothless smile and said, “You shouldn’t feel ashamed of your marks. You aren’t at zero. At least you are at 31.” I liked him instantly, because he was the first person who had realised how hard it had been for me to reach even that milestone. “One day, I’ll make you fall in love with mathematics irrevocably,” he said. And by the time he made me solve the first algebraic equation, it was already love at first sight.

Sir would narrate varied stories while teaching. Slowly, he removed the fear of mathematics from my mind, the rest just followed. I kept the promise I had made to my schoolteacher, by scoring high in the next exam.

My love story with mathematics continued to flourish. Soon, I had detected a totalling mistake of the schoolteacher, became the new child prodigy of my class who knew exactly what an iota was, and whose notebook everyone wanted to borrow. But this love story didn’t end at that. The next year, in the CBSE board exams of Class 10, I scored a perfect 100 in mathematics.

The journey from 31 to 100 wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. And I realised that I had actually fallen in love with mathematics irrevocably, when I chose to pursue a mathematical journey called engineering.

simransidhu1127@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 10:47:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/befriending-maths/article33948063.ece

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