Mathophobia among students

R K Sinha
In a somewhat ceremonial manner, on 22nd December, the country celebrated National Mathematics Day like it does every year. It is commemorated annually in the same way as one would carry out a routine. Except for this day, there is always an atmosphere of panic in our society regarding significant subjects like mathematics. A stereotype has been established that it is next to impossible to understand mathematics effortlessly. The new generation of our nation lacks interest and inclination towards mathematics.
Unfortunately, most of those who are studying maths are doing so under circumstances of it being a binding prerequisite to pursue careers in engineering or the IT sector. Therefore they have a limited understanding of mathematics. Many reasons account for this. Firstly, unlike other subjects, mathematics is a subject based on certain methods/procedures and formulas. Secondly, owing to the country’s poor education system and half-educated teachers, the youth have always kept mathematics at arm’s length.
Here, the environment for studying and teaching mathematics was never nurtured fittingly. There is no relation being established between maths and students. Even in the coaching institutes, the methods of solving the questions given to the children do not inspire them to understand the problem in-depth and find new ways to solve it. This is a very worrying situation. It is not understood why in the great mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan country has such a misconception been created about an interesting subject like mathematics being a complex subject. His birthday is observed as National Mathematics Day. It is necessary that inspired by the life of Ramanujan Ji, we should foster an environment to study mathematics.
Nowadays, the major chunk of the jobs is in information technology i.e. the IT sector. To be successful in this field, a person needs to be a good student of mathematics. Working in IT is not possible without maths. We have to appoint very promising maths teachers in our schools and colleges, who not only love maths but also teach maths to their students with immense passion and love.
One cannot teach mathematics in the same manner as history or political science. It is the great responsibility of the teachers of mathematics that they should teach their students patiently while fulfilling their roles to make math interesting. Explain a chapter until the students understand it. They have to keep improving themselves continuously. They have to constantly find ways to impart knowledge in interesting ways.
Our mathematics teachers, both new and old, have to admit that there is a reason why our students tremble at the mention of mathematics. This topic frightens students. There is no feeling of any kind of love and enthusiasm in their minds regarding the key subject. Instead of feeling bad, our teachers have to take some responsibility for this situation. I have come across many people who say that during their school days they used to indulge in maths outside of class. He did not go to class because he did not understand anything there. The simple idea is that the teachers, as well as the students, will have to work extra hard on mathematics.
One cannot memorize mathematics like other subjects. One has to understand mathematics and work hard to get a stronghold of the formulas and principles of mathematics. Once one starts enjoying maths, they will have the power to conquer the world. Remember that it is impossible to master maths without practice. To master maths, one needs to practice consistently. The precept of society about mathematics is also very disappointing. For instance, Neena Gupta, Professor of Mathematics at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, has been awarded the 2021 DST-ICTP-IMU Ramanujan Prize for Young Mathematicians from Developing Countries for her outstanding work in algebraic geometries and commutative algebras. The special thing is that Neena Gupta is the third woman across the globe to win the Ramanujan Award. But there was no discussion of this noteworthy news anywhere. The media redirected the entire country’s attention to the winner of the Miss Universe title.
Indeed, the winner of the Miss Universe title also brought laurels to the country. But, it cannot be considered right to completely ignore the achievement of Professor Neena Gupta, who is working in the field of teaching. Where will this tendency to weigh everything on money scales take us? However, one thing every student and parent knows is that there are many opportunities for those who are good at maths to have career opportunities in medical, engineering, and as chartered accountants. There is nothing better than this.
It is not possible to do many courses without mathematics. Without mastering mathematics, you do not know many important topics. It is said, “That mathematics is the heart and soul of biology.” If one’s maths is strong then biology will be easy to understand. Similarly, psychology can neither be understood nor taught without understanding mathematics. Now the capabilities of the competing team are studied in depth to win any major event. That is possible only when you understand certain mathematical concepts.
One must understand that mathematics is an essential tool of science and technology. Along with this, physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc. cannot be understood without mathematics. India must prove the notion that it is not afraid of mathematics. There is a need to inculcate a sense of curiosity towards mathematics. Our mindset about mathematics so far has been pessimistic and saddening. That needs immediate metamorphosis.
(The writer is a former MP)