Why Mathematics keeps scaring away students
IT IS a known fact that most students all over the world despise mathematics because it is assumed to be the most difficult subject in education. But then, no one can dispute the fact that mathematics is the most logical and the most systematic subject of the world.
This subject not only makes our lives orderly and well managed but also helps the world not to get stuck in chaos. It is the only subject that opens and expands the horizons of minds by developing the strong power of reasoning, spatial thinking, abstract and problem-solving ability.
Therefore, one cannot be wrong to say that mathematics is a very important subject as it is applicable in the everyday life of every individual. People, including kids from a tender age of say seven have to regularly make calculations about how to carry out their everyday tasks.
Mathematics starts from looking at the time and trying to predict how much time you need to finish what you are doing and get to other places you need to go to or things you need to do. Spending money also implies knowing how much to pay and how much balance to expect and that no doubt is mathematics at work. These are however; the simplest instances as more complex mathematics are applied to virtually every aspect of our lives.
But then, despite its utility and importance, mathematics is perceived by most students as difficult, boring, not very practical, and abstract and its learning requires a special ability that is not always within everyone’s reach. Many pupils generate negative standpoints towards mathematics in the course of their academic life, and they authentically averse the discipline.
For most pupils, the subject is not a source of satisfaction, but rather, it is a starting point of frustration as a result of these, many students tend to skip or abscond from mathematics classes. The question then is; how can so many people be bad at something which tries to help understand the world and life better?
In a chat with a mathematics teacher, Maureen Amamnkpu, she said: “Mathematics has a wide-spread reputation for being the subject students hate. It is not uncommon to hear “I hate math class” or “math is too hard” from many students who are struggling.
With subjects such as English or writing, marks can come from a variety of factors like creativity, spelling, grammar, style, punctuation, and more. But with mathematics, there are just few opportunities to earn marks because an answer can only be right or wrong. Again, students often desire to know the importance and practical application of everything they are being taught in school.
When they cannot get to know the importance and practical application of a math topic and they have to learn it all the same, they could start to hate mathematics as a result of that. Sometimes too, student-teacher relationship can equally be the reason why some students hate mathematics.
“Some teachers sometimes tend to have negative and strained relationship with their students. This could be as a result of the strict nature of the teacher or the student just hating the teacher for no reason. The hatred might unconsciously be transferred to the subject he teaches, and mathematics is not an exception. For me though, I think that the best way to get children to have interest in mathematics is to teach them how math relates to real-world scenarios, this has over the years proven to spark their interest in the subject.
“One of the most prevalent reasons many students hate mathematics is its technicality. Unlike every other subject, mathematics is very technical and can seldom be studied without ardent reasoning and logical representation. Mathematics is often flooded with formulas and theories that must be painstakingly used to arrive at answers.
“The second reason many student dislike mathematics is its complexity. This is because; real mathematics is very complex and convoluted. It takes only students with high intellects to learn and understand its complexity.
“Mathematics has never been simple. In some mathematical problems, you can barely arrive at the right answer without applying two or more mathematical theories or formulas. Thus, students get so debilitated, as they find this very difficult to do this mixture of formulas.
“Another reason why many students dislike mathematics is its dynamism. Mathematical questions are never in one form;unlike Government, Civic Education, CRS and other subjects. For instance, someone can ask the mathematical question “2+4+6-2=?”, And in another occasion, this same question can be asked in another form. Example, 6+4+2-2=?.This often gets students infuriated, as a great ability of reasoning correctly is paramount in solving any mathematical problem.
“Again, mathematics also requires a lot of memorization. As such, many students who struggle with math struggle with memorising all the rules and equations involved and in reality, memorisation is only one part of learning math. I think a teacher can solve this problem by helping the students to concentrate on understanding how and why these formulas work instead of just memorising the formulas. Students who depend on memorisation when learning math are not able to apply their knowledge and tend to become discouraged when asked to think outside of the box.”
A fresh graduate of mathematics, from University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Mr Kingsley Adum, said: “Many students hate mathematics not because they found out that it is a hard subject. For majority of the people that hate mathematics, the hatred was handed down to them. From primary schools, you stumble on pupils discussing about mathematics.
You hear the older ones say things like “math teachers are tough, mean and always asking too many questions. You can never pass mathematics, it is too difficult”. Most times, most of these children get to grow up with these notions and boom, the hatred for mathematics begin, even before they find out for themselves that mathematics is hard.
“For some of them who escaped that mind polluting notions at their tender ages, they grow up to find out for themselves that mathematics is actually boring, because the most boring things to do is doing the same thing over and over again. When this becomes the case in a math class, where probably the teacher spend very long time doing what seems to be the same thing every time, the student could become disinterested leading to dislike of the subject.
“Again, for some individuals, their first experience with mathematics was a disaster. Probably they disliked their first math teacher, the first class led to a serious embarrassment on their part or they were flogged in the first math class for failing to solve a math problem. From that point, the seed of math hatred was sown in their young mind and it never left.
“Teacher competence can equally be a contributing factor to the reasons so many people hate mathematics. Some teachers, without mincing words, can be referred to as bad teachers. While some do not have adequate knowledge of the subject to be able to impact the knowledge, there are others who probably finished first class in the course, but lack the passion and ability to impart knowledge. When students encounter these set of teachers, they could start to hate the subject.
“More so, lack of teaching materials for mathematics such as shapes, textbooks, abacus and other materials needed for learning mathematics have made some students to hate the subject, he said.
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