Why do you think mathematics appears to be such a big problem for students?
There is a certain ‘maths-phobia’... In schools, rote learning is applied to all subjects, but maths simply cannot work through rote learning. After every year’s exam, I meet the toppers. Similarly this year, I was talking to one of the class X maths toppers. She scored 100 in maths. I asked what her favourite topic in maths was and she said trigonometry. Off-hand, I asked her how trigonometry is used in real life. She took almost 2-3 minutes to answer the question, despite saying that it’s her favourite topic. There is a big problem in the manner in which we teach maths.
Are there any long-term measures being adopted to strengthen math teaching?
We are trying to work with our maths mentor-teachers in improving approaches. So far, we have focused on overall mentoring of all other teachers by these 200 selected teachers, but it looks like the next step will probably have to be subject-specific mentoring by them.
We have been working with Jodo Gyan, a non-profit organisation which works on innovative practices in maths and science, at the primary level. But from last year, we have also asked them to work with our mentor-teachers from the maths discipline. They have invited resource persons from higher education institutes to interact with these teachers.
You mentioned ‘maths-phobia’. Can anything be done to make it less frightening for children?
One of our big initiatives is Math labs. Math Labs is a private organisation; in collaboration with them, we have set up labs in three schools for classes VI, VII and VIII. Work seems to be good, so we have given them another three schools. Through learning in a lab at the elementary level, students’ concepts will be clear and an interest in the subject can be awakened. Ideally, we want to bring all subjects into lab teaching which will take some time. Currently, our classrooms are static but we would like to look at subject-specific classrooms, or labs equipped with appropriate resources, that students can move in and out of, as per their time-table.