Why Mathematics Must be Taught by Professionals ??

- And extending support for the advocates of Math Wars.

Mathematics is indeed the pulse of the universe – or more precisely, the language of the universe. Its is not a channel through which we the humans command the universe, rather its the language in which the universe explains itself to us. From the day and night to complex genetics functions, mathematics is the basement of all natural behaviours and sciences. It is a fact beyond any sort of argument or disagreement.But the way mathematics is taught makes it one of the most useless subjects in curriculum, if at not everywhere, at least in about the half. This, in my opinion, is because of the  lack of awareness of the concept and application among the so called “intelligent” mathematics teachers. The way in which I state this may mirage a sense of hatred towards the subject and mathematics teachers – so I shall make it clear – I can never hate the subject nor all the mathematics teachers, my mother too being one. And I know she’s really awesome in teaching the subject the way it is meant to be, creating an understandable physical environment.

Most of the mathematics teachers emphasis on “learning to solve problems” through consistent practice – yes, practice indeed makes a man perfect – its like no engineer in the world could perhaps build a house as perfect as an experienced mason. But the mason indeed needs the blueprints, at least orally. He can never build something on his own, other than duplicating his past ventures and slightly appending them to add aesthetic senses. The same will be the situation with a “mathematician” who has learnt the subject by “regular practice”, he could solve any complex arithmetic problem in seconds, or sometimes even put a computer back of him, but he could seldom put anything of his expertise to useful purpose (indeed, him teaching is never a useful purpose apart from it earning him his bread). Trigonometry is to a normal mathematics teacher, only a sure 15 marks hit for her student, but for Tipu, the assumed inventor of missiles, it being the underlying principle in projectiles was victory in the battles he fought. Almost none of those who learn mathematics, nor majority of those who teach mathematics know the physical importance of the topic the “feed into” their disciples. Volume of a sphere is only (4/3)*Π*r3 for a student unless he’s told it is the most compact and efficient form in the universe. Almost every boy, at least in India as I know, will be told when he’s at school that mathematics is the most important subject and to victor mathematics is to “learn all the formulas by heart”. I don’t know how may keep still keep this to their heart, but I can never agree to this, at least to that about formulas.

Almost everyone out of school will admit that they remember only very less of mathematics they learnt in their schools, though they were really good in it during the exams and may even be able to present 100/100 scorecard. This is because for most of them, mathematics was just a handful of formulas and algorithms to be memorized and presented exactly when it is required based on a pre-explained set of models. This is just as good as a volatile memory, once the continuous exposure is over, it starts to fade. Rather once the concept has been understood well in all its practical aspects and then put into solving the physical problems, it is less likely to be forgotten in the rest of the life to come. For this, primarily the teachers must be aware of the specific aspects the student is required to put those concepts into use and the entire syllabus of mathematics (or at least the problems to be practiced) must be oriented towards the particular need.

For many of those who don’t know, there is a group of debates going on at the international levels namely “Math Wars”, which basically is a debate over modern mathematics education, textbooks and criteria, the US National Council of Teachers of Mathematics being the largest supporter. The debate advocates teaching the subject through concrete examples and letting the students to generalize the subject from these, with due guidance indeed. Teachers are not supposed to teach the “specific methods or algorithms”, rather they should be introducing the students to problems and assist them to solve the problems by their own, discovering more and more efficient methods to solve these. From what I know till the date, they also seem to have much of a similar idea. Since the topic is rapidly on going and very easily available for reference, it is irrelevant to comment more about it here, other than giving some references.

Though at schools everyone needs a basic orientation and this can be delivered by normal mathematics graduates, adhering to the standards specified by the advocates of Math Wars, when it comes to higher education like engineering, economics and similar areas, all these can be achieved only by employing the professionals in the respective domains for teaching mathematics too, as a normal mathematics graduate can never excel in all the particular application fields of mathematics. For example, when a mathematician teaches the numerical methods of integrations, differentiations and root determinations, it is only a set of algorithms used “in vein” apart from having much of the perfect analytical methods. But when the same is dealt by a software engineer, it is the sole possibility of digital computations and basics of calculators and computers which can’t rely on thousands of pre-explained conditions and apt substitutions. The vectors, matrices and series are just some formulas and problems to a mathematician, whereas it means the entire backbone of their studies for Electronics, Mechanical and other branches of engineering. Similarly, statistics and data analysis are of vital importance to business and economics professionals than it means to a post graduate in mathematics. The poor conceptual knowledge of logarithmic conversions, probabilities, vectors etc. in many of the professional students are some of the examples of the mess created by teachers who are unaware of the real applications and meanings of the topics which they teach.

Employing professionals for mathematics is not a fully evolved solution to the misconceptions and senselessness pertaining to the field of mathematics for years, but it’ll drop down at least by a few levels when the students are explained where exactly they are going to apply all those they’ve been “by-hearting” tediously and how exactly are these applied. At least this is all I felt during my course at Ace Academy, Hyderabad and felt the hatred of mathematics melt away from me when taken by engineers who exactly know where and how all those things, which once I thought was rubbish, are applied. This might be a topic unacceptable to most of the conventional thinkers, but if you find this idea of education convincing share this and spread the word. Else, comment in your suggestions too.

No comments

Post a Comment