Why is maths revision seen by so many as the least attractive of all the subjects on the students’ revision timetable?
Why does this seem to be the subject most likely to be cited by individuals as too difficult? Indeed, there is even a Facebook page dedicated to this very topic.
Are there fundamental differences between those who are able in this subject and those who find maths difficult to grasp?
Research is now showing that it is the efficiency of our brains that makes the difference between those who struggle with maths and those who excel at it. People who have practiced mathematical tasks from an earlier age and to a greater degree have built up their brain’s efficiency in processing necessary information, and will have committed more solid mathematical facts and problem-solving techniques to long term memory. This frees up short term memory to process the problem in hand.
This is, of course, the same with any skill and knowledge. The Suzuki Method of music teaching encourages students to take up an instrument before the age of five and to practice every day. However, differences between students who have had early, prolonged and, importantly, positive exposure to a range of numerical learning and those who did not are perhaps more pronounced in maths than for other skills because of the way the brain processes mathematical problems.
‘It appears that learning math, perhaps more than other subject areas, involves a widespread interplay of brain activity in which many brain mechanisms must be simultaneously activated and synchronized.’
Barbara R. Dautrich, Professor at American International College
Professor Dautrich’s article also provides reassurance for those who do experience difficulty with this subject, stating that ‘practice and repetition’ will improve mathematical ability, regardless of the student’s early experience. For those who are willing to invest their time in improving, the brain is a pliable organ that will become more efficient as it is exercised. As GCSEs approach, the use of a maths tutor, increased access to class teachers and sound educational resources to offer that essential practice and repetition are invaluable steps for those whose days are currently spoiled by GCSE maths revision.