That’s a remarkable achievement and I, for one, am in awe of those for whom math has become second nature.
The German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein once said: “Don’t worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.” Students in the UAE evidently have less to worry about given that the country has advanced eight points in mathematics skills, according to the results of the recent edition of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa). In Dubai, where private schools first participated in Pisa in 2009, students scored 501 for mathematics compared with the OECD average of 489.
That’s a remarkable achievement and I, for one, am in awe of those for whom math has become second nature. Despite starting my career as a business journalist, I can’t say with utmost conviction that I’ve ever loved math. In school, even when I could calculate the time it would take the trains to pass each other, or the value of x when y was equal to or greater than 3n, I would always wonder what kind of real-life situation would require me to do so. I can’t blame my non-interest in maths on the teachers or teaching methods – they remained constant for the kids who excelled at it.
Then I started becoming afraid of maths and my confidence took a hit. That’s when I failed maths – and maths failed me. Now that I have the luxury of hindsight, I think it was my attitude towards the subject. For some reason, I came around to believing that I wasn’t a maths person, that I wasn’t cut-out for the subject – and that made everything more complicated and cumbersome down the chain.
Maths is nothing but critical thinking and logic. I think that’s where Dubai and the UAE schools are getting it right. They’re focusing on more than just the subject in which to prep the students. They’re focusing on building the students’ confidence, developing an analytical mindset, and encouraging problem-solving. And therein lies the beauty of the concept. As Einstein put it succinctly, “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.”
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