“What is the LCM of 15, 20, 30 and 40?” asked my Mathematics teacher, whom we used to refer as ‘Strict Sir’. And exactly like Darsheel from Tare Zameen Par, I was ready to be humiliated with the punishment in front of the whole class. I was expecting it. It had become a daily routine to be humiliated, beaten up with the ‘chadi’ or striking of the slimy, thin and twiggy stick on knuckles. Sometimes pinches under the armpits, if it was a morning class as the sweat gave the excuse if the classes were held late in the afternoon. I was in 3rd standard then and it was an English medium school. I don’t really remember what I used to speak or how I used to speak but I remember one thing for sure, I was managing the other subjects. I struggled a lot in Maths.
I used to get red marks in the report cards under Mathematics. We used to have 3 papers in that Subject, namely mathematics 1, 2, and 3. The 3rd one was Mental Maths. What we used to call as Vedic Mathematics. It was a boon to the scholars who used to cry when they got below 100. For me, it was still a dreading subject, making me happy even if I barely cleared. Due to this, in all the report cards, it was always mentioned, “Provisionally promoted”. I was immunized to its effect. Dear God, those were the days.
My Friends and classmates were helpful, cheering and caring. They knew what I used to go through for those 45 minutes of the day. Never ever I was turned down by them in case I needed help.
Turning point came in my relationship with maths when one day we were informed that our “Strict Sir” was not to come to the class for a few months as he went on to teach the senior class. Instead, we got a new teacher. He was young and approachable. The best thing about him was that he didn’t carry a stick. He was fond of watching movies, so was I. How do I know this? Every time I went to watch a movie with my parents, I used to see him. All by himself. Enjoying the packet of popcorn, sitting at the last row. And it had become a ritual for me to look out for him before the movie started to know which door to approach to incase I needed to go to pee. Even if he was friendly, he was my teacher. I was “supposed” to be scared of him. Today when I think about it, “Supposed” meant respecting him. What does it mean to see a teacher in a crowded place? For me, it meant that I was not at home studying!
1st Semester of the exam came and I was struggling to mug-up the answers to maths. Yeah, not formulas, but answers. I knew what to write and where. The only problem was that I knew which answers to write, but not, to which questions to answer to. It was hilarious when my class teacher once called my mom to the Parents-Teacher meeting and requested her to keep a watch over me when I solve maths at home. Answer to 5 questions in the paper I had written were same. Allegedly, I did the same in sciences once too. I was found guilty later.
The new friendly teacher called me to ask if I liked maths. I wanted to tell him, ‘to hell with liking it, I want to pass and get over with it’. This answer came on my face with a blank look. I hardly used to speak in the school. I was shy and was not that confident. I think the latter one was the prominent reason. He took my home number from me and took permission to teach me at school in extra hours. My mom agreed.
He started with Maths-3, Mental Maths. Slowly and steadily I started to understand the “things”. I could solve the questions without feeling dreadful. Although it was at the very basic level he had started with, I was enjoying simply adding and subtracting the numbers. I was doing something on my own. They were my decisions. I was proud. Confidence built up. I was very slow but I was improving. There were other two parts to the maths too but I was enjoying the 3rd one very much. I loved solving the sums. I don’t believe it myself even today that I finished the whole Mental Maths book of 100 sums in one week. Although it was a set of similar questions, it was an achievement.
Finally, the time to give the half- yearly examination came and never ever I had felt enthusiastic before, to go for an exam on Mental Maths. Not even on the exam day of Physical Education. It was the 3rd exam. I don’t remember what I wrote or what was asked. But when I came home, I was as happy as the Scooby Doo. Other exams went fine. And Maths-1 and Maths-2, acted as the heartless bitch once again. I forgot the awesomeness of that day with the raging tension of other pending exams. We used to have 9 papers. Phew! Those were the happy days!
Came the time of receiving report card after a brief holiday of one week. The report card usually decided, if I were to spend the rest of the summer holidays cramming or to get a blissful summer bed with cool drinks by my side. Holiday home-works were the last moment affair. I had each of my Family members, my Mom, Dad, Grandparents, Uncle, and Aunt to help me complete my projects 10 days prior to the day of reopening of school. They helped me by motivating me and being with me even late at night reading, knitting etc, while I was completing my work. I used to complete my projects myself. I am not lying. Really! It’s the truth. Don’t believe me?
Fine, they used to do my work. Like my
minions. *Evil Laugh*.. Ahem.. Sorry!
Well, back to the day of deciding day of how my other days were to be like.
Parent-teacher meeting happened and we got the report card and like every other time, I expected it to be a provisionally passed certificate and in-fact it was. But my mom stopped for a moment and stared at the report card. I was busy talking to my friends who had come with their parents and were flying high with flying colours. I went looking for my mother and I found her talking in excitement with my class teacher. Wait, I think she was shocked. Yeah! Shocked! I had got 99 on 100 in Mental- Maths. Now we both were shocked. My lovely mom never doubted me or my ability to succeed even for a second, but this was really different. I din’t receive the paper to see if it was me who wrote the answers or if it was the wrong calculation of the totals. I ignored the latter reason thinking it as an irony. Bah!
I never got to see the new, friendly Teacher. Our old “Stick Sir” had come back. Back at my house everyone was shocked too. I received the pleasure to act proud in the house. I was helping my dad in his calculation of his accounts and was guiding my Grandfather in taking big numerical decisions. I now know that they were toying with me. It was my day, when I got 99 for the first time in my life. I got marks above red line in maths for the first time. Wohoo. I was brought to a new life of confidence. Even if it was to remain there for a few days, but I was happy with the name of maths. I fell in love with the subject. This is not the end of it.
Now, whenever I feel that I don’t understand anything in maths, I remember this day when I got the feeling of being in love with the subject because I understood it, even the most basic things in it. It was a start to something big. Today, even though I feel that I don’t understand the derivation, solution or the problem itself, I take my time to understand it. Because I love to be in the midst of the mysterious situation that it presents. Once I have understood it, I will never forget it. I don’t know, how I got the confidence built up to take that extra step to enquire into the solution, but I know it for sure that it was the sense that I can also do it, played the charm. My new friendly teacher had once told me, “you just have to understand it once and rest will automatically follow.” Such teachers are rarely found. I was grateful to have my English teacher as my mentor from class 9th through 12th. If I am confident in communicating and have even a small positive and confident outlook to life, its because of her. In all my success throughout my life, My Mom, My English teacher and rare, understanding, friendly teacher like of 3rd grade maths has and will always have a role to play in it.
From the viewpoint of an average student, I would like to say that, liking or disliking a subject has a lot to do with the teacher teaching it. This applies to everything in our life. Why would you listen to your old time crush in the movie if they ask you to study for your exam but not your tutor? Yeah, I still have Emma Watson wallpaper, asking me to study on my smart phone.
If a child never realizes that he cannot do something, he will never know the boundary to his potential, which in reality does not exist. –Sandeep Maheshwari
There is an unlimited scope to the self-awesomeness. We just need to realize the point at which it started. Yes, it has already happened in your life and it is happening again and again. You just need to look out for it. And treasure it well. We all have the potential to be the best. Not in comparison with others, but in the work that we do.
At the end I would just like to say that we all have those moments in our life that gave us a feeling of just the thing that we needed to feel confident for the first time and again. Don’t lose on to that. Remember it and try to live it. It was your moment. Feel it. You will have your confidence back in no time. If it could happen then, it will happen again.
I got 99 problems but Math’s isn’t one.