National Maths Day: A Teacher's Guide To Create Brilliant Math Minds

One of the biggest myths of math is that students think they lack the potential to understand it. The fact is, math isn't a subject, it's a life skill

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While we all know about the legendary superhero Batman, we may not be aware of what led Bruce Wayne to become Gotham’s famous caped crusader. Wayne’s determination to become strong and fearless, along with years of hard work and persistence, ultimately led to the genesis of the iconic Batman. He wouldn’t have been able to realize his true potential without the help of his mentor and butler, Alfred. Just like Bruce Wayne, students who fear math need an ‘Alfred’ to become brilliant math minds.  As per a survey we conducted earlier, it was found that every four out of five children in Classes 7-10 across the country are fearful of mathematics and their fear of the subject grows as they progress to higher classes. 

One of the biggest myths of math is that students think they lack the potential to understand it. The fact is, math isn't a subject, it's a life skill that requires the right kind of training and practice to learn and eventually succeed. Therefore, teachers who teach math have a huge role to play in bringing about positive change. 

Research has shown that an engaged learning environment can increase students’ attention, promote meaningful learning experiences, encourage higher levels of student performance, and motivate students to practice higher-level critical thinking skills. On the occasion of National Math Day, I would like to share what must change in teaching and learning math to make sure no student is fearful of the subject.

Here’s how you can help students unlock their math potential: 

1. Teach students 'Why' and not 'What' in mathematics

Teachers need to adopt a ‘Why’ approach towards teaching mathematics that will enable the students to better understand the concepts and will strengthen their foundation. For instance, while teaching commutative and associative properties like multiplication, teachers need to allow the students to discover the ‘Why’ behind 12*4 = 48 and how the same problem can also be written as 4*12 = 48. With this approach of teaching, even the most struggling students in a class will make immense progress as their core concepts will be cleared. 

Teachers can also use objects to help the students understand how multiplication is simply nothing but repeated addition. This visual and kinesthetic approach allows students to reason the solutions and encourages them to apply the problem in a suitable context. I strongly believe that math should be taught visually because it naturally inspires students to see the 'why'- the reason behind math concepts that remain with them forever. 

2. Patience and Persistence are vital

The first step towards helping students unlock their math potential is to help them realize that they can get better at it. Teachers should teach their students the 'power of yet' which essentially means inculcating the fact that they may not be able to solve a math problem yet but if they keep trying, they will eventually get there.

3. Acknowledge and celebrate small wins

Celebrate students’ efforts in learning math rather than worrying about scoring good marks. Make sure they understand math as a life skill and not ‘just another subject’. If mathematics is taught as a subject that involves solving right-or-wrong questions students will continue to adopt the belief that they can never be successful. Instead, teachers should focus more on praising the students’ efforts and achievements in solving the questions instead of the outcome.

4. Allow Students to learn at their own pace

Everyone likes a child who is fast with their answers and solves questions quickly. Comparing these students to the ones who are slow is not a good idea. Emphasizing speed only leads to increased anxiety and lower achievement for many students. Therefore, give students time to think. The fact that you must be fast at math to be good is another 'math myth'. Learning at their own pace can help children unlock deep learning abilities in their bodies. Students will be able to comprehend and absorb topics well and this will lead to motivation and better learning outcomes.

5. Connecting real-world applications with math: 

Math is everywhere. To make concepts easier for students, give real-life examples to them. For example, let them know how the shape of the milky way galaxy is a Fibonacci spiral. Or make them understand the use of trigonometry in their favourite animated movies. Applying concepts of math to real-life scenarios will help them connect with the subject more seamlessly.

6. Play fun math games and use technology to engage your students: 

Use interactive games to generate students’ interest in the subject. Math games help in boosting morale and confidence which further helps the student to improve their skills. Giving brain teasers can also help the students in engaging both sides of their brain which will further improve their logical thinking ability and will encourage creativity. Technology is also a great motivator for a lot of students, and teachers can use online math games as well as tools to help students better visualize math problems.

7. Celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities: 

Albert Einstein once said, “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” Everyone reacts to mistakes differently. Making mistakes will only help the students to refine their concepts better. Teachers should let students know the value of mistakes as opportunities for growth.

A positive and encouraging relationship between a teacher and a student can create an environment that is essential for the academic and personal growth of the child. Children, who believe in themselves have more confidence while solving the most complicated math problems. Such children will naturally do much better as they have overcome their fear and anxiety of mathematics. Therefore, it is important for teachers to adopt strategies that help the students in developing a ‘Can Do’ attitude which will allow them to unlock their math superpower. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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