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How To Become Friends With Maths

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By Yashodhra Arora
5 Mar'22  9 min read
How To Become Friends With Maths

While mathematics may seem fascinating to some, many people may find it too demanding. If you learn to befriend logic, concentration, patience, and practice, there are chances you will start finding maths easier. The subject inspires an unreasonable fear in students, with some students even developing a maths phobia. But learning by fear is ineffective. The purpose of this article is to dispel some common misconceptions about maths, help you develop a growth mindset, provide possible answers to how to study maths, and share some interesting ideas on how to improve maths.

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How To Become Friends With Maths

While mathematics may seem fascinating to some, many people may find it too demanding. If you learn to befriend logic, concentration, patience, and practice, there are chances you will start finding maths easier. The subject inspires an unreasonable fear in students, with some students even developing a maths phobia. But learning by fear is ineffective. The purpose of this article is to dispel some common misconceptions about maths, help you develop a growth mindset, provide possible answers to how to study maths, and share some interesting ideas on how to improve maths.

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Let us first begin by defining what exactly mathematics is.

The term 'mathematics' is defined as the abstract science of number, quantity, and space, either as abstract concepts (pure mathematics) or by applying it to other disciplines such as physics and engineering (applied mathematics). It is the science that deals with the logical relationship between shape, quantity, and arrangement. Everything we do involves the logic of mathematics. We keep hearing people talk about the importance of mathematics, how it adds to our reasoning, and problem solving skills. In our daily lives, it is embedded in everything from mobile devices to computers to software, art to money, engineering to sports.

According to Charles Darwin, the lovers of mathematics are like blind men searching in a dark room for a black cat that isn't there.

Common Reasons For Not Liking Maths

Despite the application and importance of mathematics being well known to everyone, it's not uncommon to hear students say, "I hate maths class" or "Maths is too hard". So, why do so many students dislike maths?

  • The lack of stimulation - Students prefer to do things that stimulate them, and are fun and exciting. A lot of students don't find mathematics to be enjoyable, and rather find it overwhelming and boring, thereby tending to avoid studying the subject.

  • A feeling of “Where am I going to use this?” - Often, students desire to know the practical significance and application of all that they are being taught in school. If they can't understand the importance and practical application of a maths topic, they might take a dislike to mathematics as a result.

  • Negative first experiences - Some students have not had very positive first experiences with mathematics. It was probably because they disliked their first maths teacher, the first-class caused them to feel embarrassed, or they were reprimanded for failing to solve a maths problem during their first few classes. They may begin to develop a dislike towards mathematics due to such reasons.

  • Attention difficulties - There are often multiple steps necessary for solving maths problems, and students must be able to perform these steps sequentially, to arrive at a solution. For this, they must remain attentive, as it is very common for students to lose focus during lessons on complex maths problems. Consequently, they might miss important steps in the problem-solving process, and later struggle when they try to complete maths problems on their own.

  • Lack of patience or practice - Many students do not devote enough time to practice maths concepts. They may not even realise that certain areas need deeper review. Sometimes, students feel as though they understand a concept, but are unable to begin solving a problem (or end up making mistakes) when trying to do it themselves.

  • Social stigma and isolation - A student might feel inadequate if he/she is unable to keep pace with his/her peers in maths exams and tests due to insufficient skills. Such inadequacies are exacerbated when they are mocked and criticised by peers. This may cause students to hate mathematics.

  • Student-teacher relationship - This might be true for maths, as it may be for any other subject or its teachers. Students whose interactions with their maths teachers are not fulfilling, or rather, are stress-inducing, might start developing a dislike towards the subject itself. The human mind has a tendency of learning through association (called classical conditioning), and this phenomenon is much reflected in our everyday lives.

  • Maths phobia - Maths phobia is often acquired from parents and teachers, rather than personal experience. Teachers and parents who have high maths anxiety may unintentionally convey the idea that maths is difficult and anxiety-provoking to their children.

How To Become Friends With Maths?

Students enjoy experimenting. To become friends with mathematics, you must study the subject in-depth, so that you can develop logical deduction and strategic thinking skills. Once you realise where all maths is required, you are more likely to be motivated to study this subject. Basic maths skills, such as estimating prices when shopping, cooking with fractions, handling financial transactions with decimals, and measuring skills when sewing or building, are all essential to being ‘street smart’. Mathematics, therefore, must be complemented by practical experience. So how do you develop your maths skills and a liking for maths?

Change Your Mindset

It is early in your lives that you conclude whether you are a "maths person" or not, either from your parents, teachers or from your own experience. It is often believed that maths prowess is inborn; if we don’t have it, we cannot change it because our brain isn't good enough for it, it is fixed. This type of belief stems from our mindset about maths.

The key to loving maths is to develop a growth mindset. Try not to be intimidated by the difficulty of the maths problems. Embrace these challenges as opportunities. Experiment with different strategies to help you understand how to study maths. Use it to your advantage. Research shows that when one learns something new, the brain grows! Thus, you should approach maths with a growth mindset.

Know That It's Okay To Make Mistakes

Maths is a subject where we often make mistakes. We often feel discouraged from pursuing the subject after experiencing this. On the other hand, making mistakes in maths can be more beneficial in the long run than not making any. You will learn where you erred by making mistakes. That way, you are better prepared to not repeat them in the future. It has been found that when we make mistakes, synapses (connections between nerve cells that transmit information) spark. As a result, the brain learns new concepts. Moreover, your brain develops as you learn. If you make a mistake, don't back off thinking you're not good at maths.

Take The Time You Need

It's common for us to believe that anyone who can solve a maths problem quickly is an expert, and it is impossible to succeed in mathematics if you are slow. As a society, we're conditioned to value marks over everything else, due to the exam culture. Even in maths, the story of the hare and the tortoise holds. You don't have to be the hare when solving a problem. You need to take your time. Understand every aspect of the maths problem. Identify all possible solutions. Go at your own pace and analyse the problem. Allowing yourself time is one of the key elements to learning how to study maths.

Understand The Logic

When faced with a maths problem, many students often rely only on memorised formulae to solve it, without trying to understand why we use such formulae. You need to follow the logic and the ‘how’ of maths. Think about the reasons. Take the time to figure out the derivations, rather than memorising formulae. If you want to understand how to study maths, getting to the roots of formulae may be one of the ways to do so, one that also strengthens your mathematical foundation and improves your maths skills. This practice may also help you improve your problem solving skills in your daily life.

For eg - The Pythagorean Theorem isn't just about triangles. There are relationships between similar shapes, distances between any set of numbers and much more in it. Do not cram to avoid failure.

Find Different Ways To Solve A Problem

A maths problem can be solved in a variety of ways. Explore various ways to approach a problem, and see which one suits you best. Not only would it help you mitigate maths, but also add value to your problem solving skills, in general. Since it's a sequential subject, you need to proceed in a step-by-step manner.

How to improve maths, How to study maths, Importance of mathematics, Problem solving skills

Practice As Much As You Can

Maths is an unconventional and engaging subject that cannot simply be learned from reading or listening. One of the most common and truest answers to how to study maths is to practice maths as much as you can. The best thing is to start practising from the very beginning. The more you practice maths and solve different types of problems, the better you become at it. Additionally, you will be able to improve your speed and accuracy, which are crucial skills in exams. Practice, practice, and more practice is the magic mantra.

Clarify All Your Doubts

You should question almost everything, and never keep your doubts to yourself. It is easy to get stuck in a doubt in maths. Maths concepts build upon each other, and if one is lost in the beginning, it might make understanding maths concepts that come later much more difficult. Don't be afraid to ask questions. When you don't clear up your doubts right away, there is a 99% chance that you will forget them and regret them later. Check out an app, education videos, or ask your teachers or friends.

Discuss, Or Join A Maths Club

Discussing maths should be treated as any other discussion with your friends, whether it's about a movie, sports, or a major event. Talking to friends about maths, or joining a maths club can help you come up with new ways to solve a problem, find your mistakes, and figure out the solution.

Is Maths Essential To A Successful Career?

You must have heard from your parents, friends, relatives, and others of the importance of mathematics, and how mathematics is a very important subject and you should study it until class 12. There is only some truth to this statement.

There is no doubt that maths builds problem solving skills, logical reasoning, and analytical skills that can be used in careers related to numbers, and also improves general aptitude. As we attempt to solve a mathematical problem, we break it down into smaller parts, observe the relationships carefully, and try to come up with logical solutions, which helps us sharpen our reasoning abilities.

Most entrance exams assess your quantitative abilities as an indicator of your aptitude. However, these tests measure the mathematical skills and aptitude that you have already developed through class 10. If you have a solid foundation and understand maths concepts well, you should be able to manage them even if you haven't studied maths in class 12.

On the other hand, mathematics is not required for careers that use a very different set of skills, like design, content writing, journalism, photography/filmmaking, etc. It's not necessary to have a mathematical aptitude to succeed in these careers, so if you are sure you want to pursue them, you can skip maths.

Tricks For Using Maths In Daily Life

You can have fun with numbers in your daily life as well, without any pressures of performing or getting good grades. Let's take a look at a couple of tricks for using maths in your daily life.

The Doodle Factor - Draw mathematically when doodling. Create ambigrams by writing words so that they read the same upside down, as when you flip them. For example - YEAH, DOLLOP, POD, FAITHFUL, etc.

Check It Out - When you go to the supermarket, guess how much the items in your basket will cost you before you begin to pass them through the machine. You can practice your calculations for longer by adding up the prices as you go around the shop.

The subject of mathematics is challenging, yet exciting and rewarding at the same time. As you practice maths every day and develop your maths skills, you can make maths less intimidating and maximise your chances of success. As it is rightly stated, "To escape fear, you need to go through it, not around it." Go ahead, solve as many problems as you can. Be proactive. Get up, grab a notebook and pen, and begin. Follow these tips next time you approach maths, and see if you fall in love with it.

Yashodhra Arora is a counselling psychologist. She holds more than 10 years of hands-on experience in HR, and behavioural and career counselling of high school students, in India and the USA.

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