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03:06 AM Jun 02, 2019 |

Many students who dread math are far from getting rid of it after class 10, finds Neha Shah

With the announcement of the class 10 results, many students who fear the analytical subject of mathematics, are happy to get rid of it

in junior college. The usual sigh of relief is ‘I am done with school, I never have to solve a math problem again!’A word of caution to some such students: Math scores are required for admission to many undergrad courses, so be sure of what you want to do in future and take your decisions accordingly.

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Of course, these are important in admission to any course in mathematics and statistics, but even while opting for BA and BSc, these scores may be important. In fact, in many Delhi colleges, simply opting for mathematics at the class 12 level is not enough. The aspirants also need to score 90 per cent or above to apply for the mathematics honors degree. Some other colleges, too, insist on a certain minimum percentage in math for various courses across streams.

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Says Paulomi Rajani, who is opting for FYJC commerce, ‘I do not think I am ever going to use trigonometry in my life! I just want to opt for Secretarial Practice ( the subject offered as an alternative to math in FYJC) and be done with it. I do not want to deal with that dreaded subject again.’Little did she know that after two years of staying away from mathematics, in FYBCom, it springs up again, this time as a compulsory subject. ‘Really?’she sighs, fear and resignation visible in her eyes.

‘Many students wonder if theyalt39ll ever really need to know how to use the quadratic equation or find the volume of a cone. Not realising how useful math can be, and that is why is a mandatory in school,’says math teacher N K Nandkumar. According to him, mathematics creates a logical system that can assist in solving problems.

Even there, students have a strong counter argument. ‘Sure, math is valuable to scientists, engineers and math teachers. Technologically, wealt39d still be stuck in the Middle Ages were it not for the graphing on the x – y plane that people begin to learn in their first algebra.

But most students will not become scientists, engineers or mathematicians, and they wonalt39t even consciously use algebra in their careers! Math skills above arithmetic have no meaningful value to most people and are eventually, if not soon, forgotten. So why bother?’says math hater Yash Desai, not failing to roll his eyes.

The academicians answer: ‘Superficially, it may appear that your math classes are all about learning a list of math skills, learning acceptable techniques on how to manipulate numbers and symbols in order to solve problems.

But learning all this stuff provides valuable experience at an important form of thinking, analytical thinking.

This is learning how to dissect problems into their key ingredients, processing this information, then arriving at insights or conclusions in an orderly, rational way.’Nandkumar gives an example, ‘When you are given a math problem to solve you must be able to recognise the key processes at work in the problem, and then draw from your knowledge and experience the appropriate methods to solve the problem. In essence, this is analytical thinking. And analytical thinking, if I am not mistaken is the order of the day, for any higher education programme.’The fat remains, that in future, no one really cares if you have mathematical skills. Computers and even very sophisticated calculators can do about any math manipulation, and they do so more quickly and accurately than any human. If learning math was only about acquiring math skills then it would be pointless to do so. But computers cannot think, reason and analyse like humans. Math helps with that, because you need to learn how to think at deeper, more effective levels, and like almost anything else, that requires practice. And you will learn other ways to think in other subject areas.

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