Maths on a Lighter Note!
Years back, when I was a school student, my classmates and I were sitting in our classroom and were waiting for our new Math teacher to come up and teach us. She was a middle-aged teacher with a slightly grumpy appearance.
She began the class with a general introduction followed by a question that has remained with me ever since, “How many of you love Mathematics?” Very few hands were raised (excluding mine). And her next question was, “How many of you hate Mathematics?” Now, many more hands were raised, but again excluding mine. Looking back, I believe that at that age I was not clear about how exactly I felt about Mathematics.
And then a few years later, while I was preparing for the MBA entrance (CAT) exam, our Verbal Reasoning teacher was teaching us about degrees of comparison. To keep the class ambience light-hearted, he would make use of everyday examples, in this case of the word ‘like’. He mentioned that the positive degree is similar to the word ‘like’, wherein you have positive feelings about something and that’s just about it. The comparative degree is more evident when using the word ‘love’, which is when you start comparing, you have grown fonder and the feelings have deepened. Lastly, the superlative degree is like using the word, ‘’worship’, in which you essentially go into the ‘Tujhme Rabb Dikhta hai’ mode and forget about everything else. At his explanation, the whole class would burst out laughing.
In the present day, when I was about to make the transition from being a student to being a teacher and that too the teacher of a subject that for most students oscillated between the love-hate relationship, I pondered over ways to make the subject more interesting and engaging for my students. I have personally experienced the monotony that can set in during Math classes. Being a fairly lively individual, I could never tolerate dullness, insensitivity and sadness in my classes.
As I sat there pondering, a memory of my grumpy Math teacher all those years ago crossed my mind. I wondered what would be the outcome if I began my class with the question, “How many of you love Mathematics?” And when inevitably a few hands would rise, I would follow up with another question, “How many of you like Mathematics?” I played it out as I imagined and trust me, it worked.
The students were left wondering why I was asking them this strange question but the point was that I had captured their attention. I explained to them the difference that exists between the words ‘like’ and ‘love’ using the same explanation that our MBA-prep teacher had used. To nail their attention completely, I used Ghalib Sahab’s quote:
“Yeh ishq nahi aasan, bas itna samajh lijiye,
Ik aag ka dariya hai aur doob ke jaana hai”
“Arey bhai, doobna nahi hai.”
And the ice was broken. I felt that after that point they had truly connected with me. They smiled and listened to my explanation with intent. I told them how I, despite being a Math teacher, had never loved Mathematics and would probably never do so. I feel that love comes with a lot of baggage and why carry the baggage of subjects when this unpredictable life is already here to push us down under even heavier baggage! On the other hand, liking something is more generous; it brings in positivity and freshness and opens up a vast space for exploration. And on that note, I signed off by asking them to stop being extremists and forget about loving or hating Mathematics, and instead to try to like it and open their hearts and arms towards it (maybe SRK style)!
So, this is my learning story. I am Neha, a newly appointed Math teacher, who loves to weave stories and integrate art into Mathematics. I am working towards creating some Happy Math Classrooms! To follow my work, follow me on Instagram @theauroraoflife
You can check out Neha’s work on her Instagram page.