Being a grandma is great, but at times, it gives you flashbacks just when you’re trying to explain how important Mathematics is to your young grandkids!
“Some advice: Keep the flame of curiosity and wonderment alive, even when studying for boring exams. That is the well from where we scientists draw our nourishment and energy. And also, learn the math. Math is the language of nature, so we have to learn this language.” ~Michio Kaku
As a child, growing up in Cochin (now known as Kochi), I was introduced to numbers in Lower KG and got to know them better in Upper KG. It wasn’t so bad. I didn’t mind them but I liked the alphabet better. Then came Class 1 or Grade 1, as it is called these days. Now I was introduced to single-digit addition sums! Cool! I had ten fingers to count on and it was fun though it would get tricky when the total ran beyond the digits I had on my hands! That’s when it got my goat!
If I found that exasperating, Class 2 taught me something more… double digit addition and single-digit subtraction and Multiplication Tables! We were introduced to number 1 & number 2 tables. I thought it was a breeze when I was on the 1 table. With the number 2 table, I struggled a bit but got the hang of it. It was easy while writing, “Simple, add two to the previous answer”, said my bro. Just when I thought I was a whiz at it, they started the oral test at the end of the term; we were quizzed in the oral tests in the class!
I thought the teachers were cruel. My mother thought I was being stupid because she feared I’d lose marks and my rank with my low arithmetic scores in the final examination.
So, after HW (homework), I’d have to revise arithmetic. This meant, my brother would go out to play an hour before I did. Not fair! The best part is, after a day or two, he felt bad about it too.
Study time was usually an hour for both of us, my brother and me, except when I had to revise Arithmetic. Then it would extend to an hour more.
We were never supervised. You see, we were Christian children and so my mother expected us to be “obedient and good.” Well, I must mention that we were obedient and good kids. I must also reiterate, we were just kids too, minus the adjectives!
There were days when math was too tough to tackle and the games the kids were playing outside a lot more fun. So the devil on my shoulder would start whispering in my ear… and hey presto! the hour would have only forty-five minutes.
Now, I didn’t know how to read the time on the clock beyond the hours because minutes and seconds confused me, but my brother could tell the time. So, I’d use all my kid sister wiles, emotional blackmail et al, and get him to put the clock ahead. Of course, I’d want it bucking ahead by a bigger margin but he warned me that it would be obvious.
It was all I could do to keep a straight face when mummy would re-set the time on the clock and grumble about it running ahead and rant at the poor quality of things.
All this was fun until I grew up and lost precious percentage on marks due to poor grades in Mathematics. If only I had put myself to it more seriously at the start; if only folks had been more patient with my Math problems; if only I hadn’t put the clock ahead. So many ifs and buts. So much regret.
I was good with my Math scores in the primary classes, then on, it became difficult and the Math teachers were extra strict, short on patience, and quick with punishments; even corporal punishments were permitted!
Although, I was never punished, I was scared to death when anyone got it. This made it not only difficult for me to learn the subject but it also served to heighten my hatred for it. I scraped through my exams but my low scores brought down my overall grades and percentage. Needless to say what it did to my rank! Mummy had been right.
From being a contender for the first three ranks in class, I was sliding down to the 7th or 8th, and then to the 10th. It didn’t matter that we had over forty children in the class, I had lost my position. Mummy was not at all happy and told me so in as many words. This was a big blow to my self-esteem as ranks mattered a lot in our day. Mummy would berate me and I would rather show my report card to Daddy than her.
If I kept myself going, it was only because of Daddy. I couldn’t drop Math.
It was a compulsory subject up to grade 9. I could drop it in the next grade. For that, I had to pass this subject, or repeat the same class… no promotion to grade 10. He said my rank didn’t matter. What would matter was if I didn’t try. If I gave up. I assured him I wasn’t going to. Giving up wasn’t an option for me. Mathematics was never my subject anyway and I wanted to get rid of it even more now. That fueled my #determination!
I studied #Mathematics, right up to the pre-secondary level (Class 9) when I had to pass Mathematics, i.e. Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry in a Board Exam! Well, I flunked in two and had to appear for Math again if I wanted to go ahead. Thankfully I got through. But I disliked the subject even more.
Then, I had reached the secondary classes and could select my subjects… three electives plus two compulsory languages. Mathematics was not one of my elected subjects. What a relief!
Needless to say, I still need my fingers to count beyond a certain number! Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But I am awful at math and anything technical. And that’s not funny but it’s ok!