Do Math competitions inspire students to gain proficiency in the subject?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014 - 8:00am IST | Agency: DNA

Mathematics can be perfected only with practice. Keeping this in mind, several institutes conduct a number of Math tests every year that help determine what students know and what they still need to learn. "The tests give parents and teachers an in depth understanding of each student's strengths and weaknesses, actionable insights into areas of improvement and visible clarity on progress achieved," says Neeraj Jewalar, founder and CEO, Smartur's Math Proficiency Test.

Children are naturally averse to devoting time to practice math as it is not an 'enjoyable' activity. So these tests take Math beyond classrooms. "Many organisations have come up with Math puzzles, quizzes, games, competitions, etc; to help students learn math thoroughly while keeping them motivated," says Blossom Pereira, Math educator, Christchurch School. Jewalar says, "The idea is to ensure that not only the "bright" students but even the average ones sign up for the contests," she adds.

The interesting contests and the various prizes associated with it are indeed drawing hoards of students. Experts say that they pique students' interest in the subject and encourage them to value intellectual pursuits. "The rewards encourage our children to do better," says Kavita shinde, parent. Jewalar says, "We see them pushing themselves to do better in the tests with the motivation to gain maximum coins to buy gifts of their choice."

The tests make students confident and self motivated, and improves their learning skills. Just like sports encourage physical fitness so also contests inspire students to gain proficiency in Math. Eventually, students put aside the game and begin pursuing the subject with interest. "The goal should be to help all students learn as much and as deeply as they possibly can, and to instill in them a love of learning," says Pereira.

Gradual gradation of difficulty level is an important aspect that has been incorporated in these tests. "To begin with, all the tests are simple and become increasingly difficult. This ensures that even the weak students feel encouraged with their initial success in the test and have greater motivation to persist in face of increasingly difficult questions," informs Jewalar.

For better or worse, everything in life comes with some element of pressure. "Such tests train students to deal with success and failure, and teach them how to handle pressure and that effective performance requires practice," says Avelino Furtado, Math educator. But the same tests, if extended beyond students 'ability could harm them. "Students should certainly be challenged, but if this happens consistently, the experience goes from challenging to humiliating and discouraging," says Furtado.

Math contests are a tremendous social and intellectual opportunity for students, but exposing students to contests must be done wisely in order to fulfill the goal of encouraging a lifelong interest in Mathematics.

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