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Mathematics optional in Class X? High court weighs in

Bombay court nowadays went into a thorny question that tends to divide oldsters, youngsters and educationists: ought to arithmetic be mandatory in secondary school?

It asked college boards to think about creating the topic nonmandatory for sophistication X students as a relief for those going to later pursue the humanities or business courses that need no data of arithmetic.

The bench of justices V.M. Kanade and A.M. Badar noted that a lot of pupils fail the arithmetic paper and square measure forced to drop out of college when category X.

"Subjects like arithmetic aren't needed in degree courses like arts and different business courses. If AN possibility is given to the scholars to not study maths, it'll facilitate them complete graduation," Justice Kanade same.

The bench asked the college boards to consult specialists on whether or not its suggestion may well be acted on.

Some educationists in Calcutta urged that it's potential for a student to develop AN interest in arithmetic at school IX or, later in life, during a career that needs some mathematical data.

So diluting the curriculum isn't in their best interest, they said, though they in agreement that the standards of teaching got to improve to assist the youngsters shed their concern of the topic.

"If one must perceive committal to writing or perhaps a trifle of technology later, data of arithmetic is crucial," same Hindu deity Kar, director of contemporary highschool for women.

"What can be done is to have two tracks - a standard level and an advanced level for different groups of students - but not give it up completely."

All students at Modern High have to study mathematics except for those who might want to opt out because of a learning disability.

But the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (which conducts the ICSE after Class X) makes mathematics optional, and schools like The Heritage School in Calcutta allows its students to exercise the choice.

"There are different kinds of learners and it's unfair to put them all in one bracket," said Seema Sapru, principal of The Heritage School.

Bombay High Court itself cited how "the Maharashtra state board, (for) many years, had a successful system where students were permitted to apply for degree courses if they had passed at least seven or eight subjects with or without maths".

"We do not know why they (the state board) decided to do away with it.... Maybe they can consider reverting to the old system," it said.

Among the reasons educationists cite against making mathematics optional in Class X or earlier are:

• It's too early for a child to choose a future career, and more careers than she realises might need some mathematical knowledge.

• Mathematics helps develop logical and critical thinking - key to one's social and political life, and even to many professions that do not require direct knowledge of mathematics.

• A liberal education should emphasise the value of knowledge for its own sake and not teach a child she can opt out of anything that appears difficult or "useless".

• Inability to think numerically makes one a sitting duck for conmen and purveyors of ponzi and questionable pyramid schemes.

The other side highlights not just the dropout rates but the "cruelty" of torturing mathematically disinclined pupils with difficult levels of a subject they insist the children would not need in later life.

Andrew Hacker, who teaches political science at Queens College, City University of New York, has claimed that algebra is the biggest reason children drop out of school and argued for a revised syllabus that promotes "numeracy".

"What citizens do need is to be comfortable reading graphs and charts and adept at calculating simple figures in their heads. Ours has become a quantitative century, and we must master its language. Decimals and ratios are now as crucial as nouns and verbs," he wrote in an article in The New York Times.

"It could, for example, teach students how the Consumer Price Index is computed, what is included and how each item in the index is weighted - and include discussion about which items should be included and what weights they should be given."

He added: "Yes, young people should learn to read and write and do long division, whether they want to or not. But there is no reason to force them to grasp vectorial angles and discontinuous functions."

American writer Nicholson Baker too advocated elective status for mathematics in an article in Harper's Magazine in 2013, saying the compulsory algebra courses in US schools were unnecessary and cruel.

His prescription was a "one-year teaser course for ninth graders, which would briefly cover a few techniques of algebraic manipulation, some mind-stretching geometric proofs, some nifty things about parabolas and conic sections, and even perhaps a soft-core hint of the infinitesimal, change-explaining powers of calculus".

The reader responses to Hacker's NYT article showed how deeply US society was split on the issue.

One reader recalled how "algebra and advanced math" had lowered his self-confidence and nearly ruined his future before he somehow "squeaked by" because his parents could afford a tutor.

He said he now had "a very successful career in marketing, where only basic math is required (I avoid doing any metrics analysis myself and happily delegate)".

"If I had not had to expend so much effort on a subject for which I had no aptitude, I might have read more and developed even better critical thinking skills," he signed off.

But two teenage students who wrote to the newspaper disagreed.

"What kind of message does it teach students if they can simply drop a course that they find challenging?" one of them wrote, while implying he was himself competent in mathematics by confessing he planned to study engineering.

The other said he had "hated mathematics for many years" and feared the worst when it was time to take up calculus.

"It came as a surprise, then, that I quickly found myself enjoying the class. The reason was that I had finally encountered a talented math teacher.... Now, a year later, I'm looking to study mathematical biology at an Ivy League university," he wrote.

"It could have never happened if I had been allowed to quit when I first struggled with math."

Bombay High Court was hearing a petition from leading psychiatrist Harish Shetty, who had raised issues relating to schoolchildren with learning disabilities. consecutive hearing is on July twenty six.


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