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Each time I hear someone say, “Do the math,” I grit my teeth.

Is this you? If yes, then read on, this one’s meant for you. And if not, then read on to feel every word written below. Invariably a reference to something mundane like addition or multiplication, the phrase reinforces how little awareness there is about the breadth and scope of the subject, how so many people identify mathematics with just one element: arithmetic.

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
-Albert Einstein

These words of the great Scientist prove his very reason of being one. We, as humans tend to give up way too easily. Be it real life problems or the simple hurdles in subjects like mathematics. Mathematics in itself is a very challenging subject. While you are studying maths, you are in that phase where you and your patience are being tested at every step.

To clearly define the term ‘mathematics’, one would say it is the abstract science of number, quantity, and space, either as abstract concepts (pure mathematics), or as applied to other disciplines such as physics and engineering (applied mathematics). Mathematics is mental activity which consists in carrying out, one after the other, those mental constructions which are inductive and effective; meaning that by combining fundamental ideas, one reaches a definite result. Charles Darwin would refer to the lovers of mathematics as blind men in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there.

Mathematics, as a subject, is as limitless as that space which it finds too narrow for its aspirations; its possibilities are as infinite as the worlds which are forever crowding in and multiplying upon the astronomer’s gaze; it is as incapable of being restricted within assigned boundaries or being reduced to definitions of permanent validity, as the consciousness of life, which seems to slumber in each monad, in every atom of matter, in each leaf and bud cell, and is forever ready to burst forth into new forms of vegetable and animal existence.

To some, mathematics may sound way too interesting, but for others it is no less than a dreadful nightmare. Once you become friends with logic, concentration and patience, you’ll be best friends with maths. Maths deals with extreme situations; ones who love it are fans of the subject and the ones who don’t like it, just hate it. Children possess this unreasonable fear of the subject. One must realize that learning through fear never works. There is no true learning that way. Sometimes a negative thought form creeps into a child’s mind and unless released prevents growth. There are students who excel in all other subjects but somehow fail to add fractions.

The fear for maths that high school kids have in them has been residing in their minds since they started going to school. There are kids who experience intense fear of math from a young age. Not because math is bad but because the way it is taught makes no sense to the young growing minds. Research shows that math is hard wired to our brains, which explains why so many people of all ages love to solve puzzles. Math is everywhere, in the inner worlds and the outer worlds.

Here are a few suggestions that you must use to get rid of this aversion that many of you have for mathematics.

  • First of all, understand that mathematics is everywhere. Unlike subjects like Sanskrit or Science, which have minimal usage in real life; maths is put in use everywhere. You need to apply maths to your life; in day-to-day situations. For instance, calculate the probability of winning the lottery and hence, decide whether to buy the lottery coupon or not.
  • Being an unconventional subject, maths cannot be learnt simply by reading or listening. It requires practice; tons of it to get a grip on the challenging topics. The more number and types of problems you solve, the better you get at it. This will also help improve your speed and accuracy, which are invaluable skills, especially in the exams. So, the magic mantra is Practice, Practice and more Practice!
  • Follow the logics. Run behind reasons. Learn to get the ‘how’ to everything in maths. Instead of memorizing formulas, understand the derivations. Avoid cramming as it will ditch you in the end. Rather, try and understand where the formulas come from, and that’s how you’ll start enjoying maths and its applications.
  • The concept of slow and steady wins the race goes a long way in mitigating the fear of Maths. Since it is a sequential subject, you need to go step by step. It’s important to have a firm understanding of each step that you do and the key concepts that underpin a mathematical topic before moving on to work on the other.
  • Question almost everything. It is a warning for you to never keep your doubts to yourself. Don’t apprehend asking questions. If you don’t clarify your doubts right at the moment, there is a 99% chance that you will end up forgetting them and will regret later. So speak up and let your mentor know that you are unclear about a certain topic.
  • Have fun with math. Solving puzzles is math. This is all that mathematicians do. They just like to play and solve puzzles. Don’t judge the level of difficulty of puzzles. Just have fun solving them. Be friendly with the subject; for it is not that bad.
  • Patience is the key to great score in mathematics. Some of the problem sums might take a little longer than others, but if you get irritated they will end up teasing you a lot more. Keep calm, have patience, take a short break in between and then try again. If you question maths, maths will have to answer.

Maths is an integral component of all engineering entrance exams; also a must for all Basic Sciences courses. Mastering this subject certainly gives an edge to a student over his peers; both in the exams as well as in gaining knowledge. For it is rightly said, “To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.” Go ahead; solve as many problems as you can. Don’t just think. Get up, take a notebook and a pen and start solving. Remember, thinking will not overcome your fear but your actions will. For more interesting reads click here.

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