Experience about the teaching of Mathematics

Prof. Raj Shree Dhar
There is beauty, symmetry, pattern, elegance and rhythm in mathematics and we get happiness and satisfaction from mathematics like any other piece of art. A good teacher of mathematics is the one who facilitates the learning of mathematics in an effective and easy manner. We teach mathematics because it is the arithmetic of everyday life and for its disciplinary value. It is made compulsory because it encourages and develops logical thinking and it lays the foundation for the study of all other subjects and opens a good number of vocations.
One of the important tasks of the teacher of mathematics is to create and maintain interest among the students. A strong interest in mathematics tends to produce a positive attitude towards mathematics and such an attitude would in turn enhance the desire to learn mathematics in a more productive way. A mathematics teacher should be well versed with the means and techniques of arousing and stimulating interest in mathematics. The mathematics learning should arouse the curiosity of the students, should satisfy their thirst for the knowledge and should help in appreciating the beauty of mathematics. The practical application of mathematics in daily life situations provides an important means of stimulating interest. Many topics that students learn have immediate relevance for solving problems that arise in daily life and help the students in understanding laws of nature and environment. This knowledge also could sustain the interest of students in the study of mathematics.
Mathematics teacher while preparing lecture to deliver should carefully plan, outline beforehand. Student participation should be encouraged by asking questions, clarifying the doubts and reviewing the key points at frequent intervals.
Mathematics teaching can be made more interesting through audio visual aids which can make abstract mathematical concepts concrete and meaningful. It is desirable to use experiments in mathematical laboratory to verify mathematical truths and discover mathematical laws and principles. Laboratory method is a procedure for stimulating the activities of the students and to encourage them to make discoveries. The success of the laboratory method depends on a skilled mathematics teacher as well as well equipped mathematics laboratory. Abacus, Geoboard & Rubber bands, Tangram , Plastic strips or rulers, half and full protractors and fly screw, Net diagrams for solid shapes, Cut outs of various geometrical shapes, Connectable Plastic cubes of unit length, Isometric dot paper, grid paper, origami paper, squared paper, card board, glue stick, scissors etc. However, for higher classes the software knowledge like mathematica, latex etc. is useful.
Mathematical clubs are also platforms where interesting learning can take place through fun filled activities. Club provides a lot of freedom of expression for the students and it supplements classroom learning. Some of the activities by mathematics club can be organizing mathematics fairs, lectures by eminent scholars, celebrating mathematics days, contests and quiz competitions, watching UGC programmes in mathematics, group projects, writing related to mathematics etc.
The teacher can teach history of mathematical concepts and ideas for stimulating interest among the students. A resourceful teacher can think of many more such devices suitable for students to teach and these devices should be used according to the intellectual maturity of the students. Above all, the teacher himself should be highly motivated to teach mathematics with a high level of interest in the subject.
Precision and accuracy are the important features of mathematics as a discipline. Students should be trained to carry out the mathematical tasks with speed and accuracy. Usually the students make mistakes in numerical computations, for that drill and practice is effective means of memorization of mathematical principles and formulae and habit formation. Oral questions can also be asked for clarification of ideas and problems. Inaccuracy is the greatest obstacle in the development of speed. Both speed and accuracy should go together. Speed can also be increased by making the statements in precise form using mathematical language & symbols and also use short cut methods wherever possible.
The mathematics teacher should take the responsibility for effective use of mathematics library for teachers and students both to get acquainted with the latest developments in mathematics. A good library provides opportunities for removing the doubts. The different types of problems and approaches available in different books help the students in developing their problem solving ability and adopting different approaches making them more independent. It also provides facilities for the gifted students to satisfy their curiosity and thirst for knowledge. The teachers should help students to appreciate the structure and pattern which underlie mechanical and computational skills.
A teacher of mathematics can make the learning very interesting and exciting thus changing the attitude and outlook of the students. A good teacher should know not merely what to teach, and how to teach, and with deliberate efforts and planning can make it possible for the students to attain fruitful values. The mind of the child should be prepared to receive new knowledge. The new knowledge becomes more meaningful when it is compared and associated with already existing knowledge and then it is applied to new situations.
For higher classes, the teacher should emphasize on conceptual learning rather than problem solving and concepts be cleared through examples, demonstrations and discussions. Any problem should be recognized and then search for a solution with new approaches. We need to develop a mechanism to improve teaching incrementally over time and we need to find a way to professionalize teaching by making professional development a part of every teacher’s work week. The teachers throughout the world tend to use a common set of teaching practices. They review previous lessons, go over homework, provide instruction on new concepts, have students work on exercises, and allow time for homework. Mathematics lessons may begin slowly and build methodically in an attempt to engage students in a challenging problem. The teachers may place a much greater emphasis on thinking about the problem than on quickly coming up with a solution. Students may be directed to work in small groups on one or two problems. At the elementary level, students may use mathematics kits that contain visual aids and manipulative. How to invent solutions gives more self-confidence and enthusiasm than learning the correct solution.
A mathematics teacher has a number of resources for getting equipped with and a number of audiovisual aids to help in effective presentation best suited for the students as per their skills, needs, abilities etc. Computers have become important aids for instructions. Every teacher has to be well versed with the use of computer especially for teaching purposes. The teacher can also make use of educational films prepared by experts which should contain accurate material, style of presentation etc.
Mathematics helps in appreciating the beauty in art and architecture. The artists in turn weave their knowledge of form, symmetry and proportion into their creations to make it beautiful. The persons who understand and are proficient in mathematics have significantly enhanced opportunities and also options that open doors to productivity.
In India, the National Mathematics Day is observed on December 22 every year. It is celebrated in order to honor the birth anniversary of the famous mathematician Sir Srinivasa Ramanujan. He is the world famous mathematician who made remarkable contributions in different fields and branches of the subject mathematics.
(The author is life member, Ramanujan Matematical Society)