Issues in Learning Math and Science

Why maths requires a lot of practice to master

To be true, everything needs practice to achieve excellence.

In fact, at the ‘highest level’ the two legs of learning are:

  1. Recognising new things/facts/perspectives/linkages (through any of the 5 senses) – essentially registering new things in the short term memory
  2. Internalising something already registered – embedding the ‘new things’ in long-term memory The internalisation process is a function of the quality and quantity of repetition, practice. The quality of practice is the depth achieved through practice and quantity of practice is the frequency of practice.

Even long-term memory needs ‘periodic recall or linkage’ to continue to be retained in the ‘recallable long-term memory’. We tend to forget some of the most routine things too if we do not revisit them.

Subjects such as geography, history, political science, economics and science could comprehensively be debated and represented in the common languages we use in social communication, e.g. all mother tongues. All subjects up to Class X, at the least, other than maths, do not need any ‘getting used to’ a language other than the common language for complete expression of its ideas and thoughts. However, the language of maths is different. It has symbols/alphabets of its own (+, ¾, sin/cos, parenthesis, etc.) and needs specific expression (usage/practice) to develop competence in using them.

In the case of maths, the practice activity stands out distinctly and not being in the common language alone, the practice seems isolated. In a way, the practice required for maths is no greater than all other subjects; it is simply the distinct nature of the practice that gives the impression of a lot of practice being required for learning maths. And as we have emphasised in an earlier discussion, the ability to articulate maths in the communicative language based on the specific lessons from individual exercises is an essential step in mastering maths!

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