Number crunching doesn’t come easy to all and many professions don’t require it either. Then, why should all students be forced to study the same level of maths in schools? Students and teachers from Mumbai schools are divided over the state school education department’s recent announcement to scrap the general mathematics or easy math option — a less difficult paper than the regular course — for state board students in Class 9, and Class 10.
While, it was introduced five years ago for those unable to cope with regular maths, there were fewer takers for the subject spurring the department to do away with it from the next academic year. Of the 17 lakh students who appeared for the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exam every year, only 1.5 lakh opted for it, which is just 6.5% of the total number of the students, complained officials.
According to Prachi Sathe, officer on special duty, it is not feasible for the board to offer the subject anymore. “There are huge costs involved in holding an exam for both schools and the board,” said Sathe. “99% of the respondents in a survey we conducted were not in favour of it.”
But most of schools and students that Hindustan Times spoke to said they don’t want the subject to be dropped. “Easy math is a good option for students who are not comfortable with advanced mathematical problems,” said Susan Babu George, math teacher at Holy Family School and Junior College, Andheri. “I fail to understand why the government is dropping it.”
At least nine to ten students in a classroom of 50 to 60 students in Mumbai schools choose easy math over the regular math. School principals said it helped students weak in math fare better in exams. “After taking up general math, our students are scoring well in SSC exams,” said Savita Venkat, principal, Bombay Cambridge School (SSC and IGCSE), Andheri East.
Daniel Ravi, 13, studying in Class 8 was disappointed that the option won’t be available to him in Class 9 and 10. “I am aware that I don’t have the capacity to study regular math. I find algebra particularly tough. Since I will pursue commerce after Class 10, higher level math is of no use to me,” said Ravi.
While, a few educators argued that math is more of a life-skill than a subject, others said that numerical skills needed for day-to-day functioning are covered in basic math. “Those who don’t want to pursue higher studies in math, they don’t need advanced math. Easy math teaches them just enough concepts that they will need if they don’t plan to study math further,” said Father Jude Fernandes, principal, St Mary’ School (SSC), Mazgaon. He added that a lighter version of other subjects such as Marathi should be also be offered.
In contrast, some of the teachers admitted the subject’s popularity is waning. “Indian kids and parents usually choose careers depending on their Class 10 results. Since you can’t take up science after studying easy math, not many want the subject,” said Jayashree Ravindran, teacher, Vidyadhiraja School, Bhandup. Adding that the stigma attached to taking up an easier subject, discouraged many, Ravindran said, “Parents feel that their child will be considered weak if he opts for the subject and schools find it difficult to convey its importance to them.