Mathematical intelligence is only one among the many types of intelligences put forward by Edward Gardener in his theory of multiple intelligence. But in our society, there is a myth that if a child is intelligent, he has to score well in math. Generally, we find many school going children having difficulties with mathematics and which is why maths tuition teachers are in great demand. So, more importance and focus is given to math teachers.
Difficulty with math is labelled as dyscalculia. It can occur along with dyslexia or in isolation. But the challenges in learning math are not due to differently wired brains as in the case of dyslexia.
Quite often the difficulty in acquiring math skills may be precipitated or aggravated by four major factors.
· Inadequate time spent in establishing the basic mathematical reasoning at the pre-primary level.
· Unrealistic pace of the math syllabus which does not give the child enough time to internalize, establish, apply and generalize the concepts learnt.
· Disregard for readiness –It is important to keep in mind the cognitive maturity of the child to understand the mathematical concept.
· Bad teaching- The teacher focuses more on the product than on the process which means the marks scored is given more importance than the child’s ability to do mathematical reasoning.
Dyscalculia does not merely mean lack of comprehension of word problems. It is much deeper than that. A child with dyscalculia struggles with very basic things like number concept, one to one counting, place value, more/less, before, after, between etc. If these issues are not addressed, it leads to secondary mathematical issues like difficulty with mathematical operations, word problems, and higher order reasoning.
Broadly speaking, math teachers should focus on developing and mastering pre number skills, math vocabulary (big, small, more, less, ascending, descending, predecessor, successor, factors, multiples), inter relationship of mathematical concepts (connection between addition and multiplication, addition and subtraction, fractions-decimals –percentages etc) reversibility of mathematical operations, writing a mathematical sentence before moving on to abstract math concepts etc.
In conclusion, there is art in teaching maths. The joy of learning should not be lost in the dysfunctional practices of comparing, competing and criticizing. Math, it should be remembered is a life skill. Therefore, it is our responsibility to keep the children motivated to learn math.