Teaching methods

Math and Science are never taught in an interesting manner. I have cribs about the way Math is taught in schools and colleges. The textbooks do not inspire, instead it introduces Math phobia. The tutors/authors plan is simple. Start with each math subject with the definition and solve few example problems and then straight to list of problems. The author also publishes addendum to the textbook which has all the solved solution. There are no applied examples in math textbooks, one wonders what is the need of studing those weird stuff if there is no application. Teachers do not inspire the students in any way. I have stumbled upon only few people who inspire to learn the subjects they teach.

In my school during one of math class, we were taught about similar triangles and some postulates like Angle-Side-Angle. During the class I asked why is the proof essential, instead of the hard work we could just measure things and arrive at the answer. I was asking what is proof and why is it necessary (in fact this sounds more bigger and philisophical question now!). The teacher gave an meaningful answer stating that proof’s are essential when you have no means of measuring.

Everybody aims at getting high scores in exams and concentrate on proable questions by analyzing the previous years papers and never doing the justice to the subject. This is not a new trend but pretty old one as the following extract tells us.

Extracts form the article The British Mathematicians. George Peacock (1791-1858)

At that time the University of Cambridge consisted of seventeen colleges, each of which had an independent endowment, buildings, master, fellows and scholars. The endowments, generally in the shape of lands, have come down from ancient times; for example, Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, and at the beginning of the 19th century it consisted of a master, 60 fellows and 72 scholars. Each college was provided with residence halls, a dining hall, and a chapel. Each college had its own staff of instructors called tutors or lecturers, and the function of the University apart from the colleges was mainly to examine for degrees. Examinations for degrees consisted of a pass examination and an honors examination, the latter called a tripos. Thus, the mathematical tripos meant the examinations of candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts who
had made a special study of mathematics. The examination was spread overa week, and those who obtained honors were divided into three classes, the highest class being called wranglers, and the highest man among the wranglers, senior wrangler. In more recent times this examination developed into what De Morgan called a “great writing race;” the questions being of the nature of short problems. A candidate put himself under the training of a coach, that is, a mathematician who made it a business to study the kind of problems likely to be
set, and to train men to solve and write out the solution of as many as possible per hour. As a consequence the lectures of the University professors and the instruction of the college tutors were neglected, and nothing was studied except what would pay in the tripos examination. Modifications have been introduced to counteract these evils, and the conditions have been so changed that there are now no senior wranglers. The tripos examination used to be followed almost immediately by another examination in higher mathematics to determine the award of two prizes named the Smith’s prizes. “Senior wrangler” was considered
the greatest academic distinction in England.

Unless somebody takes pain to explain the abstract concepts/principles and logic behind the subject students are never going to pursue Math/Science very seriously.


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