“Do you have a calculator?”
Recently at a local café, a couple of school girls came up to me showing me their bill for ice creams. They were not able to calculate their share—split 600 between the four of them.
Although I helped them with it, I worked it out on a piece of tissue, instead of a calculator. Showing them that it was simple math.
Have you witnessed similar instances where children are unable to do Math? “Why kids dislike Math?”- it’s a much-discussed problem around the world and some experts call it innumeracy.
Innumeracy means an inability to deal with numbers. Basically, it’s the fearful dislike for Mathematics.
Since our kids are still young and we have the possibility of changing their mindset, why not try? To do this, we need to understand the problems first.
Here are eight reasons why kids dislike Math
1. The Pedestal
When I was in grade six, my favourite part of Mathematics was sets and subsets. They were easy, fun, and to an extent, logical.
This was until the day my Maths teacher announced that even if we scored a 100% in sets, algebra was what getting us through. Then she added, “If you fail in Mathematics, you fail this grade!” Although I already loathed the subject, even sets and subsets bored me after that class.
As I think of it now, I conclude that the pedestal on which numbers are attached is unreasonably high. I’m an English lover and Math wasn’t easy for me. The teacher’s pressure made it harder.
All around us, Mathematics is put at a high pedestal and the little hands of children cannot reach it.
2. Too Much Thinking
“This requires a lot of thinking; let’s finish the easier stuff first,” was the tuition teacher’s response.
The teacher comes every evening to help 7-year-old Hriday complete his homework. They finish the ‘easy’ subjects first–Language, Poetry, and the Sciences, after which Mathematics is attacked.
“Oh, Mathematics is such an important subject, Aunty. I’ve to think and solve!” says Hriday when asked how his work was coming along.
This gets me thinking! Usually, most of us stall anything that involves challenges and problem-solving. We hold it till the end. In our minds, we have decided that problem-solving is complex, even if the problems aren’t that complex in themselves.
Mathematics is one such problem in our minds and inevitably, it gets passed on to our children.
3. Who Is Smart?
“Mom, Tanvi is my new best friend.” I ask why and my son says, “She is very smart. Counts till 50.”
Have you been in a class where the ones who can solve a sum are considered smart and the ones who cannot, are not? The others are ‘average’ students.
In our society, to be skilled in Mathematics defines smartness. Anyone who is good with numbers is regarded as superior or gifted. This is the reason children get scared the minute they fail, even once.
Maths is a just a subject and everyone is bound to fail at it, once in a while. Not all sums can be completed correctly all the time. So why attach a smartness tag to it?
4. Why Do It?
“I have learnt what two into two is. This is not how it’s done.”
My six-year-old nephew tells me that stacking two books over two books isn’t the same as two into two. He quickly writes 2×2=4 in his notebook and shows it to me saying, “This is two into two. Those are just four books!”
The six-year-old is demonstrating correctly-by-hearted knowledge but doesn’t know its practical purposes at all.
Math is a fearful jigsaw puzzle for many children because they just don’t know the purpose of doing it. Obviously, if something is hard plus purposeless, kids will be averse to it!
5. Low Motivation
“Where’s the fun in Math, mamma?” asks six-year-old Divit. His mom has been cajoling him to solve the sums for the last half-an-hour, but he just lacks the motivation to do it. His statement reflects his reason. He just doesn’t find the subject fun enough.
One of the most important reasons why children dislike Math is because our methods of teaching do not involve fun.
Food for thought, isn’t it?
6. Is The Pace Customised?
Have you been to a circus? I’m sure you’ve seen trapeze artists walking on a tightrope. Do you think they learnt it overnight, at one go?
Wondering what I’m getting at? Here it is:
Solving Math is like walking on a tightrope. It’s a difficult subject. One quick lesson in the classroom will not make every child learn it’s concepts. Some children take time and go slow. Maths is a fear because we expect all kids to understand it at the first go.
Do we have enough provisions for those who take time? You have the answers.
7. Black And White, No Grey!
“I don’t like being wrong all the time!” With that, five-year-old Nikhil stomped his foot and left the room.
“He’ll solve the sums incorrectly. So I’ve got to tell him that he’s wrong, aren’t I?” asks a perplexed mom, Anita.
Children don’t like to be proved wrong and Math does that to them all the time. There are no midway answers in Maths. You are either right or wrong–never in-between. This becomes a key reason why kids are apprehensive and scornful towards numbers. Mathematics is too precise for their liking.
Either we change the entire science behind Mathematics (which we can’t!) or stop saying “you’re wrong” even if they are.
Can you think of other ways of correcting them?
Well, this is like the cherry on top of the cake. All the reasons why children don’t like Math involve one form of embarrassment or another. Failure in Maths leads to embarrassment! Think from a child’s point of view—probably, there are four parts to it:
“First, it’s a compulsory subject and I don’t like compulsion.”
“Second, even mom and dad are scared of it. They go red when I ask them to solve equations for me.”
“Third, they keep taking reference or telling me that the subject is hard and I better concentrate and fourth, when I can’t solve a sum that my best friend can, I feel embarrassed.”
Numbers can never be allies unless they are treated like them. The dislike for numbers is, therefore, nothing, but the fear of expectations, and humiliation.
Friendships don’t involve these fears and even numbers shouldn’t!
What are your child’s reasons for not liking numbers? Share with us in the ‘Comments’ section below.
Image Credits: Welcome To Learn