Math is everywhere around us, whether we realize it or not. Every time we conduct an internet search, order something online, or automatically get recommendations for products that we are looking for, there is math at play behind the scenes. Search platforms use algebra to rank websites based on relevance, and all e-commerce and OTT platforms employ probability and statistics. But are we failing young minds when it comes to helping them develop a strong math learning foundation?
We need to reconsider how students have been taught math and encourage a strong base of skills, such as coding, data analysis, and problem-solving, which matter in today’s world and will in the future. Inspired by my understanding of the challenges faced by students, I believe children can master math, but also fall in love with it.
Where my love of math began
I have been a math educator since my university days. While lecturing senior-grade students, I realized that most of them struggled with math despite my best teaching efforts. I saw that if a student struggled with calculus in the 11th grade, the odds were that they did not master algebra in the 8th grade. I also saw that many students hurried to complete math worksheets or would ask me, “Can you just tell me the answer to the problem?” Students were too focused on the math answer, not on why XYZ was the answer or the problem’s basic math concept.
I’ve been honored to work in the education sector for over 15 years and have personally taught math to more than 10,000+ students. During that time, a continuing theme I’ve seen is the transformative impact a good education can have on a child’s academic and professional trajectory. I’ve had many students over the years who were struggling or came from extremely humble backgrounds when I first met them. But because they were fortunate enough to get good teachers and good support, they ended up becoming very powerful individuals and leaders. Every such story reinforces my belief that one of the biggest areas of focus for any government should be the education of its children. An education that helps students become deep and powerful problem-solvers in today’s ultra-fast-moving world of tech and AI will benefit the world of the future.
Current math learning challenges
Math anxiety is as real as it gets, and your child is not alone. Jo Boaler (math professor, Stanford University) says that as much as 50 percent of the U.S. population [i] is plagued by their fear of math. Research from the University of Chicago[ii] shows that people who have math anxiety steer away from solving problems, even when a large reward is offered.