Is math education in India adding up?
In 2016, we created history when students across the country appearing for the CBSE Class 12 math exams were reduced to tears and the issue became a topic of discussion in the Parliament, the highest decision-making body in our country.
In India, math is considered a passport to success and not scoring well in it is never an option. It’s not surprising that there was an uproar among both students and parents about the “very tough” paper.
This brings us to an interesting question: Are schools preparing students only for ‘not-so-tough’ exams?
Let’s take a moment and examine the state of math education in India:
Lack of application
One of the major reasons why math is not a preferred subject is that its concepts are never made clear in the current education system. It is never linked to any day-to-day problem, and students are not able to make connections to apply their classroom learnings in real life situations.
Lack of innovation
Over the years, almost every class has followed a broadcast method of teaching where one teacher typically disperses information to a class of 30-40 students. Every child is unique and it is sometimes impossible for them to grasp concepts without personalized attention. Isn’t it time to bring about a change in the delivery of concepts?
Lack of technology
Using a calculator or a spreadsheet to solve a math problem does not count as using technology for solving math problems. Technology must be integrated into math learning for multiple representations of concepts. For example, you can tell a child that x=y with a slope of 45 degrees. They may understand it. But using technology to literally show how this is formed will help them enhance their visual skills.
Obsession with the end as opposed to the means
The over-obsession to get that one ‘right answer’, limits a student’s focus. It teaches them to think that they need to learn or rather learn by heart just one algorithm to get to the answer. Critical thinking or alternate approaches to problem-solving is never encouraged.
In a class, students are incentivised to submit quick responses. The fastest-finger first approach adopted by teachers simply encourage rote learning. Children are not encouraged to think out-of-the-box for solving non-routine problems.
In a country where the concept of zero was discovered and for a country that gave birth to Ramanujan, the man who knew infinity, it is disappointing to know that a “tough” math exam paper could throw children off their guards, leading to a debate in the Parliament.
We need to make math-learning more interesting for children and expand their problem-solving abilities. For this, we need to change the way math is being taught to them. Math education will add up and amount to something only when we’ve built a strong math foundation in all our children.
We need to make math-learning more interesting for children and expand their problem-solving abilities.