How to Learn Maths According to a Mathematician.
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Your Child’s Love–Hate Relationship With Math.

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“Math class is stupid and boring” – Sincerely, Most students

The definition of Math

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A subject feared and loathed by many. Loved and revered by some. Understood by none.

How Do I Learn ‘Mathematics’? Is a common rhetorical question. Rhetorical as most people don’t seem to have an answer themselves. Mathematics is all around us, it is experienced every day and yet many of us have never used a single formula in our daily lives. Still, we have our children and then their children and so on and so forth learn mathematics as is taught by a school according to its curriculum. Why? Because math is necessary to inculcate a logical aptitude in a child, to teach him to be rational and practical. And above all else to be ‘serious’.

But learning something you may never actually use in real life sounds far from logical or rational. In fact, it actually sounds positively impractical, ludicrous and non-serious. Which is precisely what mathematics in its true essence is. An Art form.

“If the world had to be divided into the “poetic dreamers” and the “rational thinkers” most people would place mathematicians in the latter category.” – source.

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False! Math is meant for the dreamers, the thinkers and the innovators.

When in fact there isn’t any subject as poetic, radical, abstract or psychedelic as math. Finding that hard to believe? Math today is viewed as a collection of facts and statements that reverberates ‘truth’. Hence leaving very little room for imagination, expression or debate. Today’s system has reduced mathematics to a very convoluted state that most students and teachers are familiar with. When in fact mathematics is the making of patterns, the art of explanation and reason! It isn’t about solving problems but about questioning and reasoning them. Even though math has a practical application that isn’t what it is solely about.

Math is an Art Form

Mathematics is not concrete and rigid. It is not structured and is neither limited to a certain shape or area. It’s false association with formulas and equations is the prime reason for why it bores many and is feared. These formulas and equations are merely techniques that help us in solving a sum and isn’t how to learn math. Imagine an art or music teacher teaching his/her student’s only techniques with regard to art or music and didn’t let their student actually paint or practice music until they mastered every technique. Sounds absurd, right? Students must be allowed to just paint or practice until they reach a stage where they may learn techniques in order to refine their work.

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Credits – MarekBennet

Then why is it that every student is taught math the wrong way? Or does not know how to learn math? This is as a teacher would teach math as he had been taught or to the best of his understanding. And if the teacher themselves haven’t understood the subject then neither would his students.

Mathematics requires a creative quotient just as any other art form does. As it relies heavily on one’s imagination. How else would you enclose a triangle within a rectangle? Additionally, like any art and innovation true mathematics is not productive and lacks purpose. It involves playing with ideas, wondering and amusing yourself with your imagination. A mathematical question is about the imaginary and that which has no absolute form. Things are as you want them to be and hence you have endless choices.

For example, if we had to find the area of the triangle of this figure:-

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How could we find it?

If we cut the shape along the dotted line, you’d realise that each triangle is half of the respective rectangles formed! And thus, is half the area of the whole rectangle. But instead of this kind of creative and rewarding process we subject our students to facts and statements like this: AREA OF A TRIANGLE = ½ * base (b) * height (h).

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Hence no real engagement with the subject happens within the classroom.

Mathematics Curriculum – How to learn math.

So how to learn math? How is it taught to us? Like most things in today’s world math too is a race, and is connected to a “ladder myth” according to Paul Lockhart. An idea that mathematics can be arranged according to a sequence of “subjects” each being in some way more advanced than the previous. Hence some students are “ahead” of others and parents worry about their child “lagging behind”. But where does this race lead? What’s the finish line? Mathematics is not a race it’s an Art form. And Art is not a race.

Spelling and pronunciation are best learned through reading and writing. Names and dates are uninteresting when removed from the unfolding backstory of events. Why does mathematic education remain stuck in the nineteenth century?”

Discovery and exploration are replaced with rules and regulations. ‘The exponent rule’, ‘the product rule’, etc. Instead of problems that would exercise and enrich one of the diverse ideas, cultivate discussion and debate. We have redundant exercises, specific to the technique under discussion, and hence disconnected from each other and from mathematics as a whole. Actual mathematics is ‘hard creative work’ just like poetry or painting.

Teachers do not have the time to teach math in this slow and contemplative process and hence stick to the ‘easier process of lecture, test, and repeat’. This method of teaching is counter productive to learning. Teachers and parents greatly influence a child’s outlook towards mathematics and hence if adults are anxious about mathematics then that would probably rub off onto children as well. Almost 20% of the total population suffers from mathematical anxiety. Mathematical anxiety does not mean that you’re necessarily bad at math instead it just means that you are anxious about maths. For more details on mathematic anxiety watch the below video.

When the importance of ‘what’ overtook ‘why’

Students are discouraged from asking doubts relating to rules or facts that they must memorize and solve exercises with. This ensures that class time is not wasted. In the present system, those who are good at math are not necessarily good at actual math or problem solving but are instead good at pattern recognition and following orders. Hence reducing a student to the level of a driveling chimp.

Obsessed with techniques and notations. Complicated jargon fills text books which makes sure that any mathematical writing is uninterpretable. What we fail to understand is that it is not ‘notations but notions that help us to progress’. Children are forced to memorize and then reproduce various techniques and formulas. Instead of arriving at the appropriate technique we are asked to arrive at the answer. Answers to problems take the spotlight instead of how we arrived at such an answer.  A students method and steps of solving a problem gives an understanding of the student’s confidence in the subject. Additionally, it gives the teacher a peek into his chain of thought. However, now it is more important to get the right answer.  For example 1+1 = 2 Right?

Well, you would be right in most cases but when we consider mod 2 arithmetic we would want 1+1 to be equal to 0.

So how does one realise if they truly are good or bad at math? Many students who in actuality would have sound logical and reasoning capabilities tend to doubt their abilities and thus abstain from courses and careers which would involve mathematics. Careers and courses in which they would naturally shine. The best way to figure out one’s aptitude for the subject would be to get in touch with existing experts in those career fields. Which is where we here at NAVIGUS could help you. Through interacting with experts from various professions we can give you information straight from the horses mouth. Coupled with aptitude tests and discussions we would be able to give you an insight on your strengths and the various fields in which, you could apply them.

Rediscovering a lost art form.

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We Need A New Boat.

 

Math education does not need reform as it is the equivalent to rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. We need a new boat.

“The politicians say, “We need higher standards.” The schools say, “We need more money and equipment.” Educators say one thing, and teachers say another. They are all wrong. The only people who understand what is going on are the ones most often blamed and least often heard: the students. They say, “Math class is stupid and boring,” and they are right. – source.

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