People hate math, at least that's what they're always telling me. Of course, being the way that I am, I have to make converts of everyone. I don't know what my passion is exactly, that drives me to convert the "math haters," but I simply cannot overcome the compulsion to do so. To me, there is not just beauty in mathematics but something else which is spiritual. It's as though God speaks to us through this strange and mysterious language. For this reason, I always approach the subject with a certain degree of humility and reverence, knowing that I can be both abased and exalted by its magnificence.
But why try to make math converts? Why not simply preach to the choir of that rare group of math lovers? Well firstly, the latter group is minuscule in comparison to the former, and secondly, there has always been something noble in trying to make a "believer" out of a "doubter." Moreover, I have this firm belief that our society advances or stands still according to the progress of its children. If the children of society are reared properly, then the future success of such a society is strongly enhanced. If the children are adulterated, ill-educated, and poorly motivated.well, then guess what? Do you really expect a brighter future for mankind? Hardly. It is for this reason that I go around preaching the importance of mathematics, particularly the foundations of arithmetic.
To this day, when I work with a student and see him or her struggling with the topic at hand--whether it be algebra, geometry, or even a higher branch such as calculus--I come to observe that invariably a weak foundation is the root cause of the struggle. In addition, the student's lack of confidence makes the fight even more challenging. The struggle having increased without remedy, the student eventually succumbs and adopts an "I hate math" attitude. What is encouraging for such cases and certainly worth stressing is that all of mathematics hinges on the basics of arithmetic.
It is unfortunate that much of a student's frustration in his studies later on is the result of poor mastery of arithmetic. For this reason I say, "Soundly drill this discipline into the minds of our children and the chances of success in higher mathematics is dramatically increased." A good analogy to make would be with sports and professional athletes. Expert athletes master the basics.
The Tiger Woods of the world spent countless hours practicing the fundamentals of golf swinging. The ace pitchers of baseball worked on mastering the mechanics of certain pitches. In both cases, these athletes practiced endless rounds with a keen focus on both speed and accuracy.
Even great coaches understand the importance of the fundamentals: this is why athletes spend countless hours in training camp going over the basic exercises and drills. This same concept applies to mathematics. Master the basics and the chances of success later on are increased dramatically. Consequently, in mathematics, once the foundations are mastered, success comes in this discipline as easily as it does in others.
Okay. Maybe not as easily, but certainly success will come nonetheless. And as mathematics is so powerful in helping us march forward as a society--indeed mathematics unfolds to us mysteries of the very universe itself--there really is no need to hate this most awesome subject, but rather love it.
By: Joe Pagano