the study or use of numbers and shapes to calculate, represent, or describe things. Mathematics includes arithmetic, geometry, and algebra
Today, I attended a presentation by Dr Bal Chandra Luitel held at KU Gwarkho. Dr Luitel is an Associate Professor at the Kathmandu University and is one of the leading mathematicians in Nepal. He’s very prolific and has presented numerous papers in international conferences and workshops.
I was not overly excited about attending the presentation (since I am barely interested in Maths as a subject) but I had heard a lot of admiration regarding Dr Luitel’s works and achievements and was always curious to meet him in person.
Today’s gathering was about his recent presentation and experiences at the 12th International Congress of Mathematical Education held in South Korea.
I used to hate Maths in school. I scored 99 and 98 on both Maths in my SLC exams, I was pretty good at it but I never enjoyed Maths, and I hated it in college too. Why did I have to learn Algebra? My teacher’s answer: It will be useful in ‘future’. I (We students) bought it. And Trigonometry? You will have use of it in your future, he said. But I didn’t want to go for Engineering or be a Mathematician. Geometry was relatively fun, but I have since forgotten those 20 plus theorems that we had to memorize. Matrix. Mean and Median. Mode. Derivative. Calculus. I don’t even remember all those terms anymore.
Why did I have to learn those weird stuffs like Sin/Cos/Tan in Class 6! Once, the optional-maths teacher had smacked me hard on my face, and delivered a painful blow on my back the other time when I couldn’t remember those freaking formulas. (That teacher lives around my area and I still have grudge towards him :))
I never understood the real purpose of Maths besides addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I know how to calculate percentage, average, interest, height and distance and few stuffs that are relevant to me. But I have rather comfortably and happily forgotten over 95% of the stuffs that I learned in the Maths class.
In some ways, I consider learning/studying/practicing Maths for those endless hours were a total waste of time. A General Maths would have been perfect for me but I didn’t have a choice. If a student wanted to go for Physics or Engineering or Maths after passing SLC exams, it would make sense to have Algebra, Trigonometry, Geometry and so on in the curriculum. But for us, there was no choice. (Sadly, it’s still the same, there’s no choice for school students.)
Dr Luitel’s presentation, along with few ones of his students, revolved around some of these concepts – (well there were more, but I could only remember these.. others went straight out of my ears)
Pure and Impure Maths
Harmony and Chaos (Something like, even Buddhism relates to Maths.)
Linear vs Divergent approach
Defrosting and Refrosting Maths
In conclusion, how to teach Maths so that the students do not fear/loathe it.
I forgot his exact words but it was something like this – students hate Maths because the teachers make them. What a profound thought – well that might be an exaggeration but it did make sense. It was mostly the teacher’s passion-less attitude and dull approach that made me hate Maths. Maths looked pointless to me, and no teachers could tell me that it was not. No one showed me it was beautiful, nor did they tell me that it could be poetic too.
In many ways, my teachers failed me (and many disillusioned students like me). Their expectations failed me. The system also failed me.
And, I’m sure it’s not just about Maths. It’s also the same with Science, or History, English and even Nepali subjects. I really don’t remember any teacher being passionate about teaching Science or English during my school days. History was always about dates, boring dates that no one really cared. I don’t know how I got through SLC exams with a distinction but I wish we had teachers who could inspire us. Many teachers were good at making us obedient and silent (many times with fists and sticks) but few were there to guide us, teach us with passion in their action and smile in their faces.
May be, that’s the only way they knew how to teach. Shout. Threaten. Punish. Humiliate. Put pressure on.
Dr Luitel said, teachers need to open up their mind. They need to change their attitude and never stop learning. It came off like a regular cliché but it is true. Learning never stops.
And, I did learn a few essential lessons today.