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Why Math Isn’t Fun? A Root-Cause Analysis

by Anitha Sankaran 7 months ago in courses

Why do children dread mathematics? Because of the wrong approach. Because it is looked at as a subject. — Shakuntala Devi

Photo by Valerie Lendel on Unsplash

Ghosts, deadly creatures, many worse things might have haunted you. Will you believe if I say I’m haunted by Pythagoras Theorem for past sixteen years? I’m heading to Math Exam with total fear. My Math teacher yells at me and the derivation of Pythagoras Theorem laughs at me. It takes a while to realize I’m not a school kid anymore, and it is all a bad dream. When I was in my sophomore, one morning I told my mom that I would bathe in Pythagoras’ theorem. My mom asked me if my screws were loose. It is the level of dread Math put me into. Math wasn’t fun for me.

When I was a kid, some of my friends felt Math boring while some kids were smart at it. My parents mentioned that in their generation some kids felt that Math lacked fun. In recent days, I have heard my friends whine about nightmares they face with their kids in tutoring Math. Why isn’t Math interesting? This question keeps hanging in my mind. I tried to extract reasons for it right from my childhood.

16*12=?? Give Me a Break -Tired of Memorizing Stuff

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I remember a day when my Math Teacher was teaching us multiplication tables in school. She made us repeat the tables, memorize it. I was like wait a minute, what is this? I raised my hands and asked her to explain how the multiplication works. Her reply shook me. She asked me to register all tables in my mind in such a way if she wakes me from my sleep and challenges any table in any order, I should answer it correct. It is the first wave of “Hey Math, You aren’t fun anymore”. A brief insight about what multiplication does could have helped.

Where We Use Calculus in Real Life?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Page after page of problems, formulas, and derivations made me tired. During my schooling, I am used to learning subjects by relating to real life. When I applied the same to Math, my curriculum forced me to stop questioning and start solving. I was not aware that we use a lot of calculus concepts in physics. Motion, electricity, heat, light, harmonics, acoustics, astronomy, and dynamics have concepts of calculus in it. If a kid pictured this way, Math would have revealed its beauty, but our bad only the complex side of Math overpowers and taunts kids.

Partially Derived an Algebraic Equation- Still You are Wrong

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In my middle school, my dad saw a Math assessment paper of mine and asked why didn’t I complete the Algebraic equation since I derived it perfect. I remember telling him that that I felt I cannot derive it correct, the teacher would mark it wrong and I would fail in the test. “Not forgiving a minor mistake”, a tradition of Math destroys the interest students might have in it. No one would want to experience “failure”, over and over. If Math allowed “Make mistake, learn from it” strategy, then students would marvel at the magic of Math.

Experimentation with Techniques - Math Anxiety

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Most curriculum teaches Math using direct instructions. It leaves little to no room for discussions and reasoning. Students have no grounds to experiment with many methods using trial-and-error techniques. The overemphasized procedural knowledge, lack of building problem-solving skills, reduces the confidence of students. This creates an anxiety for the kids. They may doubt whether they’re good at math, even when they are. Math Anxiety can actually impede them from doing well. If curriculum allows to experiment with different techniques, to solve a problem, it would make Math exciting.

A spark of curiosity, a space for creative thinking, supporting productive struggle of students in learning can bring back the lost fun in Math.


Anitha Sankaran

I'm a freelance writer and a former IT professional. I write poetry, articles about personal development, short stories and flash fictions.

Twitter: @sankaran_anitha

Insta: @anisesh1

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Anitha Sankaran
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