Yesterday, I expected the first meeting of my statistics class to be the start of a boring and tormented semester of taking another math subject. My hatred or lack of enthusiasm in math as a subject stems back to my high school days spent being humiliated in front of class by a teacher who forced us to do manual calculations in algebra and trigonometry!
“What?! After all of that all we get is zero?”
Plus, the experience of spending hours solving complex math problems only to end up getting zero as the value of x or y, though it was the correct answer, aggravated my frustration.
Things changed a little, for the better yesterday when our instructor in statistics started the semester addressing this proverbial question of why Filipino students hate math?
I forgot to take down notes so everything from here on is culled from my half-life memory, rest assured though that I’ll keep them as truthful as I can remember.
Going back, our instructor, the clever and ‘green’ guy from Mindanao started by quoting his research for his Master’s degree in which he allegedly found out that 70% of Filipino students hate math. Then he gave the following points in his way of answering that question posted earlier.
We separate the subject from everyday use/life/experience
Math, according to him, has been confined to the four corners of the classroom. It was seldom taught as something practical that can be used in daily life. Though I think it is, every time we count the things we want to buy, the money in our wallets, the amount of phone credits we have left etc. we use math. Basic math that is, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
But when talk of the values of x and y, the median of this, the value of pi raised to the second power, everything else seems to go south and these concepts seem so alien, far away and abstract. He countered by giving examples like, say you have whole pizza and there are five of you. Naturally, it would be divided into five slices so that each would have an equal share.
However, one becomes greedy, say you, and wants to have more than one slice of the pizza. So instead of dividing it into five, you cut it up into six. And since you’re the one who did the cutting (actually, ikaw ang may kapal ng mukha), you get the sixth slice in addition to your first one, resulting into two slices for you!
In concluding this point, he told us that Math should be taught in a more practical manner, showing its relation to everyday life, since according to him, the Filipino psyche is quite poor in dealing with abstract concepts, unfortunately, mathematical concepts are just that!
Math teachers often look down upon students with poor performance in their class
This is so true in my elementary school days. All of my math teachers would come to class, waiving their bamboo sticks, screaming at us for being idiots, sons of the devil and Jews (my third grade math teacher seemed to have a beef with them, I really don’t know why), forcing us to memorize the legendary multiplication table to a tune all public school students know of. (one taymis one, one! one taymis two, two!, one taymis three, three! and so on)
Math teachers are so full of themselves, it’s a rarity to find one that admits his own mistakes in class
Now this I first encountered in high school, because if one were to try this during his stay in the elementary grade, it was suicide, especially in the public schools. Raising a point of correction to the math teacher is one of the bravest things one could do in class. And this was so frightening and risky to do, it was reserved to the few bright math wizards in class.
If heaven smiled upon you, the teacher would would acknowledge your correction, smile, crack a joke and blame his/her mistake on the chalk! Of course, praises and sincere thanks are occasionally given only to the class favorites.
Now in college, so far, my algebra and trigonometry professors were human enough to welcome corrections, praise the one who dared to give it and dispense the just points for it. Fortunately, this statistics class is my last one according to my curriculum and the instructor is every bit as human in admitting his mistakes and shortcomings as he is smart and competent to teach the subject.
Still, that nagging question stands, why do Filipino students hate math?