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Optional maths in class 10 will benefit students, say Mumbai teachers

However, educators say schools need to find ways to help students cope with subject.

mumbai Updated: Jul 26, 2017 10:56 IST
Puja Pednekar
Puja Pednekar
Hindustan Times
school notes,Mumbai schools,education

With the Bombay high court recently observing that all education boards should make mathematics optional in Class 10, educators and child development specialists are caught in a debate over the subject’s importance.

While, specialists argue that maths adds to students’ fears and can be made optional in higher secondary, educators said schools need to evolve ways to help students cope with the subject.

Last month, the court observed that students, who want to pursue arts or vocational courses at an undergraduate-level, do not need knowledge of math and so there should be a provision for them to drop the subject in the school certificate examination. It was hearing a petition filed by psychiatrist Harish Shetty on the need for education boards to assist students diagnosed with learning disabilities.

Among national boards, only the Council of Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) gives students a choice to drop math in Class 9 and 10. Students can opt for science, economics or environmental studies over maths.

The rest of the boards, including the Central Board of Secondary Education, the Maharashtra state board, and Cambridge International Examinations, have compulsory maths till Class 10.

Teachers said that if all boards make the subject optional, it would ease the pressure on students. “Maths can weigh students down if they have a weak foundation,” said Sunita George, a maths teacher and principal, Bombay Scottish School, Powai.

“Unfortunately, we measure a child’s intelligence by his or her mathematical abilities and this demotivates and shatters the self-esteem of students who cannot cope with the subject,” she said.

George said that those who are weak in math do not necessarily have learning disabilities and so cannot avail of concessions such as extra time, use of calculator, or easier version of maths.

“There are cases in which children are simply not good in the subject or are victims of parental expectations and pressures,” said George, adding that such children benefit tremendously if they drop the subject.

Some teachers said that instead of dropping the subject entirely, schools can help students in overcoming their fears. They suggested lenient checking, scaling down the difficulty level and changing the question paper pattern.

“Boards can set the paper in such a way that it can assess multiple intelligences,” said Susan Babu, secondary math teacher at Holy Family School, Andheri. “The difficulty level can increase gradually, but all students should be able to pass at least.”

Babu said maths is an essential life-skill, which will help students in all avenues. “Everyone requires maths at some point,” she said. “Although computers and technology have made basic calculations easy, we need maths to help us understand it.”

The CBSE was forced to scale down the difficulty level of the Class 12 mathematics question paper for the March 2017 exams after an unusually tough exam brought down scores of students. The pattern was revamped, introducing short-answer type questions carrying two marks and reducing the weightage of controversial higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) questions.

However, some educators admitted that such measures would help only if schools take special steps to strengthen maths skills. “Maths is no longer tough as it used to be. The syllabus has been watered down and teaching methodologies have changed. Students can easily master it provided they receive remedial support from the school,” said Savita Iyer, principal of Bombay Cambridge School, Andheri (East).

First Published: Jul 26, 2017 10:56 IST