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What comes to your mind when you think of Maths? If you think Maths is a cold, boring, difficult, abstract, unrelated to life subject, you are not alone. A lot of people feel the same.
However, mathematics is important in whatever field you pursue- be it commerce, psychology, architecture, law or anything else. And you need maths to succeed in life.
When I was young, I had the same perception about Maths like all of you. Maths was a fate worse than death. I would not understand any concept, let alone, realize its importance. The night before my Maths exam would have been me sitting before my parents who would give me problems to solve out. 9 out of 10 times, I would fail.
The only way to atleast pass the exams, I thought, would be to memorize the problems and their solutions and empty them out in the exam scripts. This worked out great when the education system of our country championed rote memorisation. However, when the new system was introduced, everything backfired. Due to my memorisation of the whole math and not understanding, I would blurt out what I memorised, not looking at what was written in the question. And the cost was great- I failed in Maths back in grade-7.
So how can you find maths fun and eventually start loving it? Here are some tips and tricks to help you fall in love with maths.
1) Changing your mindset
Early in our lives, we come to the conclusion that we are or are not “Maths-person” either from our parents, teachers or from our own experience. We believe that being good in maths is an inborn trait, that our brain is not good enough for excelling in Maths and we cannot do anything about it- it is fixed. Such beliefs are related to having mindsets.
According to Stanford researcher Carol Dweck, there are two types of mindset: Fixed mindset and Growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe their qualities are fixed traits and therefore cannot change. On the other hand, people with growth mindsets believe their intelligence and learning can grow over time. They don’t fear taking challenges and view them as opportunities. Studies have shown when students are convinced to have a growth mindset, they are able to perform better on Maths tests.
In order to love maths, what you should develop is a Growth Mindset. You should not fear tackling problems no matter how difficult it maybe. Take it as an opportunity. Learn from it. And research has shown when you learn something new, your brain grows!
So change your mindset when approaching maths. You’ll be a lot better than believing you can’t do maths.
2) Appreciate your mistakes
Many a times, we make a lot of mistakes in Maths. This often acts as a disincentive to us to further pursue maths. However, making mistakes in Maths is actually helpful in the long run than not making one. Mistakes will help you learn where you erred. You can then be prepare not to make the same mistake in the future.
There are research that back up the claim. Researchers have found when we make mistakes, synapses ( connection between nerve cells that transmit information) spark. This causes the brain to learn new concept. And like I mentioned previously, your brain grows when you learn.
Acknowledge the fact that you are making a mistake. Learn from it. Don’t back off by the fact that you are not good at maths because you make a mistake.
3) Slow thinking
We tend to think that whoever can solve a math problem quickly, he/she is a math genius. In maths world, slow is equal to failure. Such tendencies arise from the exam culture of our society where we prize marks over everything else.
But the story of the hare and the tortoise is applicable in maths as well. When solving a problem, you don’t need to be the hare. Take your time. Try to understand every part of the problem. And think all possible strategies to solve the problem. To quote Mathematician Laurent Schwartz,
“What is important is to deeply understand things and their relations to each other. This is where intelligence lies. The fact of being quick or slow isn’t really relevant.”
There’s research to support this claim as well. A study found high achieving students participating in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test (a test conducted by the OECD on the education system of 59 countries) held maths anxiety as a reason for negative performance. The students pointed out timed exams acted as a deterrent to their math performance.
Therefore, don’t worry for being left behind. Go at your own pace and think the problem through.
This comes as a no-brainer but often we fail to understand math. We see a problem and then solve it out using some memorized formulas. We would often fail to understand the underlying cause of using such formula.
One way to overcome such is to explain the concept to someone else. As Albert Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” So try explaining what you learnt to someone else. That will bolster your understanding.
If you can’t find someone to explain a concept, you can try out the “Feynman technique.” This technique is named after the famous physicist Richard Feynman who was known for his ability to explain difficult concepts easily. The basic rules of this concept are:
- Write the name of the concept at the top of a page
- Explain the concept in simple term giving examples, figures etc.
- Find out the areas where you have problems and go to the source book to solve it out
- Simplify complicated terms (asking why at every steps)
This is a picture of what I used to explain the Sandwich theorem (a theorem in Calculus) to myself using the Feynman technique. You can use it as well to explain difficult concepts in maths. See how I made mistakes while understanding the concept as well! (selfish boasting)
Maths is considered an abstract subject with no connection to imagination. Yet, the opposite is true. You can visualise a lot of important aspects of maths especially the ones related to motions and projectiles. By visualising, you will be able to understand the relationship of one element to another. Moreover, you can be able to compute the result without calculating or using any formulas. Here’s one math problem where the problem was solved without using any rules.
6) Finding different ways to solve one problem
There’s no single road to solve a math problem. You can actually approach it from various different angles. And there’s no wrong in any problem unless the step you follow is not logical. Work out with various approaches to a math problem and see which one is suitable for you. And you don’t always need to follow your teacher’s method. I remember back in grade-8 when our Maths teacher would teach Interest rates. He would solve the problem using formulas. I wasn’t comfortable with that and would rather use the unitary method. However, both methods worked and my teacher wouldn’t cut any marks for that.
Talking about maths can be boring and you can lose the admirance of your friends. Just kidding! You should take discussing about math problems as like everything you talk with your friends- be it about a new film or sports or about a major event. Discussing with your friends can help you find new ways to solve a problem, find your mistakes and solve a problem correctly.
I hope following these seven rules can help you fall in love with Maths. So next time you approach maths, follow these rules and do tell me if you have fallen in love with maths or not.
This article’s audiobook is read by Rafsan Lazim
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