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Mathematics teaching reduced to 'Does' & 'Don'ts'
Source: Hueiyen News Service

Imphal, May 03, 2013: Mathematics teaching has been reduced to "does" and "don't" without letting the students to grasp a fuller understanding of the concepts, said Huidrom Jayantkumar Singh, former head of department of Mathematics, D.M.College of Science and President, Manipur Mathematical Society.

Delivering his keynote address at a day-long workshop/seminar on Mathematics and Science Communication for media persons held at Manipur Press Club here today, Jayantakumar bemoaned that the faulty approach to teaching Mathematics by focussing on problem-solving was responsible for Maths-phobia suffered by students.

This is one subject in which maximum students fail in the examinations.

It is the most unpopular, rather most feared subject among students, he added.

This media workshop was a part of the series being organized across the country by Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous body of the Ministry of Science & Technology and the National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC), Department of Science & Technology, Government of India in connection with the National Mathematics Year (2012-13) being observed to mark the 125th birth anniversary of great mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

Jayantkumar went on to explain that Mathematics teaching should pass through three stages.

'Whats,' that is, definitions, interrelation between principles, etc.

'How' is the method of solving a problem or proving a proposition.

"Why" is the interpretation and generalisations.

Although the last stage does not provide solution to the problem, it is of basic importance because it tells us why a particular method of solving the problem had been adopted.

But teachers generally concentrate on the 'how' part and give little importance to the 'what' and 'why'.

As a consequence, students are forced to cramp up and learn by rote - just like mugging up English spellings and pronunciation.

Hence, young learners develop a distaste for Mathematics, he observed, adding that like taking scientific knowledge from textbooks and laboratories to the common people in the field, familiarisation with the principles of Mathematics can be made lively by relating them to our day-to-day activities.

In his introductory remarks of the workshop, Dr.Subodh Mahanti, senior scientist, Vigyan Prasar, said that the idea behind these workshop/seminars was to highlight the importance of Mathematics in understanding the secrets of nature and solving practical problems, and to make people aware of India's mathematical heritage.

Mathematics is used as a universal language and tool for any quantitative research in all the sciences.

Fundamental Mathematical questions also arise out of these research topics.

And so we see the emergence of disciplines like mathematical biology, mathematical ecology, mathematical geography, mathematical physics, etc.

Dr Mahanti pointed out that the origins of Mathematics can be traced to antiquity.

Prehistoric human beings probably learned to count at least up to ten on their fingers.

Ancient Indians, Chinese, Babylonians, and Egyptians devised methods of counting and measuring that were of practical importance in their everyday lives.

With the passage of time surveyors, clock and calendar makers, masons and machine makers, and most importantly merchants, developed the methods of counting and measuring.

"We have a rich mathematical heritage.

One of India's greatest contributions to Mathematics is the number 'zero' and the decimal system, which established the modern way of writing numbers," he added.

Dr Mohanti said that during 2013 a number of activities are proposed to be undertaken under a wide umbrella of initiatives called the International Year of Mathematics of the Planet Earth (MPE-2013).The idea behind MPE-2013 is to focus on mathematical research in areas of relevance to the various processes that affect the Earth.

Nimish Kapoor, another scientist with Vigyan Prasar who was also present on the occasion as a resource person, said that besides producing films and radio programmes, publishing books on popular science topics, Vigyan Prasar has been involved in different popularisation activities.

It has set up a network of science clubs across the country and was involved in science and mathematics popularization among school students and the common people.

Speaking about science and mathematics writing, Nimish felt that science writers and journalist should use simple language and avoid jargons when writing for lay audiences.

Others who spoke included Dr Surendranath Singh, Director of Manipur Science & Technology Council (MASTEC), Prof Roop Chandra Singh, head of department of biochemistry, Manipur University and well-known science writer and former principle of DM College of Science G Toba Sharma.


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