Do you remember how we as children enjoyed counting? We would take such delight in counting the number of birds sitting on a wall, the number of yellow buses passing by, or the number of people holding up colourful umbrellas over their heads. It was always fun and so very interesting… definitely more pleasing than reciting the alphabet or tackling the spelling of words! Children who were still hassled by the many numbers would count on their fingers, and then as they learnt even more numbers, they used the segments of the fingers to count, to subtract or to add. However, this very same child who is so fascinated with counting – counting even the number of buttons on his shirt or the number of dots on her skirt – loses interest in numbers, and therefore in math, by the time he/she goes to middle school. What is alarming is that not only does the child shun math, but also develops a phobia for it because the subject has become daunting.
Most primary school math books are colourful and child-friendly; however, middle school students, who are already dealing with a higher level of mathematics, are prescribed books that are not visually appealing, and therefore they seem more formidable. Unfortunately, by this time, many students have already labelled themselves as “Good at math” or “No good at math”. The latter category of students goes to remedial classes in order to rid their fear of the subject and unknot its complexity. However, most of these classes focus on dinning in the same idea again and again into the head of the jittery and anxious child, but it is all done in vain if the child’s fears are not minimized or conquered. Why can’t we make our remedial classes different so that children conquer their fears, take a genuine interest in the subject, and therefore develop the urge to work on the subject independently?
http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-elementary-school/40167-eight-ways-to-make-math-fun-for-your-students/ encourages teachers to use puzzles, games and innovative methods to incite students to develop mathematical skills. Putting up puzzles on walls and asking students to come up with their own puzzles (based on the concept being dealt with currently in class) are methods of getting students to think about the subject rationally and more importantly, devoid of fear.
Remember hopscotch or its Indian equivalent stapu (in Hindi) or nondi (in Tamil)?
You’ve probably enjoyed the game yourself and still witness children playing the game excitedly, impatiently waiting for their turn, and with such wholehearted involvement. The numbers in the boxes neither intimidate nor perplex them. They go through the game with ease and agility, hankering for more. The hopping and jumping around on the numbered squares provide a release to their seemingly never-ending reserves of energy, and keep them alert.
The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.