22 November 2019

How I finally got over my fear of Math

Durga is now helping thousands of children in overcoming their fear of Math
By Durga Prasad Yadav

Every time my teachers asked me to solve a Math problem on blackboard, I felt butterflies in my stomach. Though I was good in most subjects, the very mention of Math had me sweating. No wonder, I got a lot of bashing from my Math teacher for being ‘the most hopeless student’ in the class. My classmates also started teasing me everyday for my failure to perform in Math. 

The situation was so bad at my school that I started skipping my classes—I would roam around the city to kill time. Then I saw this another school nearby and since the uniform was same for all the government schools, one day I went and sat in the class. The teacher welcomed me and didn’t ask too many questions about my sudden appearance. I quite liked my new class, classmates and environment, and became a regular visitor to this school. 

When my parents came to know about my continuous absence from my school, I not only got beating from my father but was sent back to my school. Though father tried to make Math fun by converting questions into riddles, it didn’t help me make peace with the subject. And my struggle with Mathematics continued.

I desperately wanted to quit studies after class-V, when, thankfully, my school ended. The primary school was till class-V and now I had to go to middle school. This another school I had attended left some happy memories and so I decided to put my idea of quitting the studies on hold and decided to give middle school a try.   

My new teacher understood my fear and its root cause. My concepts were not clear. She asked me not to be scared of Math and to follow her instructions for the next six months.

There, my new teacher understood my fear and its root cause. My concepts were not clear. She asked me not to be scared of Math and to follow her instructions for the next six months.
First, she asked me to go through only the examples given before every exercise, read the questions carefully and visualise the problem in my mind by putting myself and my friends at the centre of it. “Imagine that you have to solve this problem in your real life,” she told me. Besides, she gave me some tips to memorise the formulas.
Slowly, my relationship with Math changed. I was no more scared of numbers, signs and formulas.
My parents were amazed to see my mark sheet in Class-X—from being the most hopeless student in class-V, I was the topper in Class-X. I scored 96 % in Math.
As I grew up, I realised that this fear of Mathematics in children is common and is often the result of ineffective teaching methodologies and a faulty curriculum which promotes rote learning over experience-based learning.
And now I am making learning fun for other children. I know that foundation years have to be strong for every student. When I hold the blue Math Kit of Sampark in my hands, I feel empowered.
At Sampark, we are doing exactly what my teacher taught me years years ago but in a more scientific way. Here, our teacher training program focuses on how to inspire children in the classroom by making them visualise the "why" behind a concept. We use Concrete to Abstract methodology in Math and a lot of teaching learning materials ( TLMs) to teach complicated concepts in a simplified manner.
These tools are so effective that I often use them to explain complex Math concepts to my eight-year-old son, Tanishk.  I know if he learns to answer the 'why' of a problem, he will never be scared of it.
What I like the most about my job at Sampark is that we are helping millions of kids deal with Math anxiety. And I feel proud every time a kid confidently stands up in the class and volunteers to walk to the blackboard to answer a Math problem.

(The writer is State Head, Haryana, Sapark Foundation. Views expressed are personal)