Throughout my childhood, I wondered why I was forced to ‘study’ math when I clearly wanted nothing to do with it. I was so sure of my lack interest in certain subjects that as I grew up, my career choices reflected my dislike – ‘math-free’ as I termed it, almost like I was free from some sort of hateful disease. Due to my certainty, my career choices till date have reflected my state of mind. The Arts. Choosing Literature as my field of study ensured that I did what I loved the most – read, analysed, read, analysed and read some more. I was math free. Or was I?
Math, a nightmare?
When it came to taking my career a step, forward, things changed. A professor. Today’s system requires a college level professor to clear the National Eligibility Test (NET) or the State Eligible Test (SET, wherever applicable) in order to become a full time teacher, failing which, you remain a teacher on lecture basis – no job security as such. So when I thought about it, in order to move forward with my career, a Ph.D. was a must. And to be eligible for a Ph.D., you either clear the Ph.D. entrance, NET, SET or study another year, that is, Masters of Philosophy. Because the NET exam seemed like the most widely attempted option, I decided to prepare for the same. And this is where my worst nightmare came alive. Math.
After so many years of avoiding math, it came back to haunt me. The format of the exam is such that while one section is subject centric, the other essentially tests the candidates’ overall knowledge. So questions pertaining to Venn Diagrams and hypotenuse are aplenty. And the only way to ace these concepts is through practice.
So do I regret hating on math?
Problem – Math or Comprehension?
The problem here wasn’t math. It was with my method of comprehension. If I didn’t understand something, I’d resort to by- hearting the same. While it did help at that point, it proved to be a futile practice in the years to come. And when it came to math, the only thing mug-able were the theories and that I knew at the back of my head. But how and when to apply what was beyond me.
And this goes for every subject. Maybe you won’t have theories, but if you don’t understand a concept, you will never be able to apply it.
And now I know why.
The issue with mugging is the idea of recall. Do you believe this information to be truly useful? Will it help you in the future? These are the questions that usually lead students to the practice of mugging. Because at that point, cramming information into your head and spewing it onto your exam sheet is what counts. But, whilst attempting this mammoth task, ask yourself. Is there a point to all this mugging? Won’t I need this? Won’t it be useful? Knowledge is power and therefore, all knowledge is useful. You have to be able to study with the purpose of understanding. With the purpose of being able to utilise information in the future.
What’s the point of spending hours by- hearting a topic in biology only to forget it in a few days? Won’t it be more helpful and satisfying if you understand the topic? If you can truly appreciate the essence of those words on the page?
Won’t you feel good about yourself when you remember what you studied even after a few years have passed?
And trust me, when you thoroughly grasp a concept, only then you can you perfectly write about it. Only then will you be able to connect concepts and write more than what is expected and churn up glowing results.
In order to truly appreciate any subject, comprehension is a must. Now while our education system grades us on memory rather than practical work, we have to remember that to excel in the real world, one free from textbooks and umpteen number of dates, we have to be able to understand a concept. Be it math or physics, chemistry or biology, the only way to learn is to understand. Otherwise, you merely by heart and remember nothing. The same goes for the Arts. Literature too throws up scores and scores of words – archaic and contemporary that we often fail to understand what we read. Yet, the only way to make sense of a string of unfamiliar words is to familiarize yourself with the meaning of such words so as to enable you to make use of them and therein improve your vocabulary.
Henceforth, it is crucial to remember that comprehending a topic goes a long way. Maybe it won’t help you as much in your exam but it definitely will in the long run – when life hits you with a test of its own.