Ramlal & Mathematics: horribly anxious moments ahead


“I would like to ask you a question that requires an honest answer.” After a pause, Ramlal slowly scanned the faces of ten students enrolled in his recently launched mathematics course. And after the pause Ramlal continued, “How many people in this classroom feel some anxiety about mathematics?”

Not to Ramlal’s surprise after initial hesitation almost all the hands were up. Ramlal said, “Please keep your hand up and look around.  Just notice that you are not alone. There are two subjects that make almost every student anxious – first being mathematics and second foreign language. While most people leave foreign language without attaining fluency, almost everyone fears mathematics & would feel bricks in their pants even if asked what 10% of 30” is?”

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Ramlal continued, “I have spent some time on this fear psychosis & according to me the reason is simple. Whenever you are asked a simple mathematical question your brain tells you, Oh! Shit, not again. This time you will be caught. You will get it all wrong & people sitting around you will boo you. They will see right through you and recognize you as a ‘Duffer.’ May be they will not hoot but will definitely make you feel sick. Better pick a calculator or better just say you don’t know. You can’t learn this. This is too tough.”

So according to Ramlal it is simple; our brain tells us it is Better to be safe than sorry. The other reason, (let me clarify according to Ramlal), why mathematics makes student anxious is because this subject comes around as precise and disciplined step by step stuff to a logical conclusion. You know you can’t have two answers to one question. Mathematics for a huge lot of students is not one of the most creative ventures in the world, with discoveries made by drawing, jotting, erasing, and crossing out pictures. There is nothing that is left to imagination. Almost everything that we have to solve can be solved only one way because it was constructed to give one answer. That’s boring for a huge lot of people. “I know a lot of students who will have, “Maths! Please grow up. How long do you want others to keep on solving your problems”, written on the first page of their mathematics course book” ramlal further added

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Ramlal once asked a student, a not so good in mathematics student, “What goes in your mind when you are in mathematics class?” and student replied, “Ramlal sir, my brain always in the first few seconds concludes that all problems are “Nonsense”. It makes no sense to me to find what the age of ‘bharti’ is if her sister ‘neetu’ is twice as old as she is. Then my brain after a while tells me that if everyone else in the class finds some sense & relevance then it must be something wrong with me. It is at that point that I conclude that I am not good in maths.”

Does mathematics makes you anxious as well? Share a few incidents about your encounter with Mathematics

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