Math is perhaps the easiest subject to teach for two reasons:
- It’s highly logical, i.e., deductive; prior experience, or observation are not important in learning math. Math is about building ‘flawless’ (or better) arguments on any situation, this reasoning ability is basic human capability in all of us
- Math is build on a rather narrow foundations, i.e., there are fewer ‘concepts’ to be comprehensively mastered, compared to all other subjects; of course, where we face the biggest hurdle is that these smaller set of concepts form a rigid hierarchy of relationships for more complex concepts – thus, weaker foundations leads to poor math education.
There is no reason for any child to be ‘weak’ in math; in fact, the truth, to start with, is that those who are ‘weak’ in math are actually blessed with better logical and reasoning in new situations, given the way we teach math. Incomprehension of math, in the current educational processes and resources, is a blessing in disguise, if children can maintain competence in languages, science and social sciences. Indeed, this explains why people with ‘poor math scores’ in schools thrive in the world of business and private lives.
Is the above too much to believe in? Does it become any easier if you come to know that the computations that steadily scare you away is hardly at the core of mathematics? That math is essentially about ‘patterns’ and computations/calculations come into play only when we have identified a pattern in any daily life situation – personal, social, business, or scientific – that we want to explore further, or we wish to find patterns (or a particular pattern) in such situations. Let’s explore some simple examples of what we mean by ‘pattern’ in math –
- How many pairs can be made out of a given number of things
- How many things will be in each part of a number of things if we make 4 equal parts of the things?
- How many equal parts can be made of a number of things if each part has to have 23 things (just as an example)?
- Can sets of 7 things be made out of the number of things, such that no things are left without being in a set?
- How many things we will have if we triple the number of things?
- How many things will be left if we take out half of half of the things?
- What part of the number of things is 23 things?
- How many things will be left if we take away 46 things plus half of the rest of the things?
- By what percentage will the number of things increase if we add 29 things to it?
- How many things will be left if for 6 continuous days 42 things are taken away from the number of things?
The above are examples of just the simple kinds of patterns in numbers, the patterns to be found in any set of things is only limited by our need, or imagination.
What all different patterns you can think of in the following situations:
- Students in your section
- Students in all the sections of your class
- All the students in your school
- The marks obtained in an exam
- The list of school holidays
Indeed, math is all around us, in terms of patterns in all the situations, things, events etc. in our lives.
Think of ten different patterns in your life.
But why do patterns matter in life? Why is the knowledge of pattern of such importance that we have a ‘full subject’ (i.e., math) devoted to it?
The following quote is very apt here to explain why we need to understand each pattern that may be in a situation to isolate a pattern (or more) of interest, or to find a particular pattern in a situation that is needed, or desired –
If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to treat everything as if it were a nail. – Abraham Maslow, a pioneering management thinker.
We can say that each pattern in a situation has its specific need, or advantage (or disadvantage), and that helps us know better about the situations to maximise our advantages, or minimise our loses.
For instance, the number of pairs to be found in a number/situation, is a very useful pattern; if you have to find players for chess games from a group of chess players in a tournament, seeing the list of players to find the ‘pattern of pairs’ would tell us the number of chess boards needed, number of play stations to be created etc.
Similarly, there are a number of patterns possible in the marks obtained in a test by your classmates, for example
- knowing the maximum and minimum marks obtained by all your class mates, helps you know how well you performed compared to all others
- it may also tell you how ‘difficult’ was the test (e.g., if the maximum and minimum marks are low, the test must have been ….)
- how many classmates have scored over you
- how many class mates have scored below you
e. what’s most common marks obtained by your class mates