This article stresses upon the extremely important and much needed skill of quick and accurate calculations, based on my experiences as a teacher.
– Mohit Ryan
Generally, in my classroom, I tease my students for having a low grade of calculation speed (which, frankly speaking, is quite irritating at times).
Inadvertently, this becomes a full blown lecture in the event that a high fraction of students have their calculation skills analogous to a Rate Determining Step of a chemical reaction (For non-Chemistry oriented viewers, Rate Determining Step is the slowest step in a chemical reaction).
It’s a possibility that, in the coming years, we may hear about a NATIONAL ANTI-CALCULATION MOVEMENT (something like Anti-Corruption Movement) organized by students across the country.
Jokes apart, the fall in calculation skills of the present generation of students, in great measure, is caused due to the extensive use of smartphones by students. Make the phone smarter, and the child’s smartness shall be reduced. Actually, here I am referring to the numbness caused to the minds of my students by the Calculator Apps provided by smart phones.
It is unfortunate to see that loads of students are getting used to such apps.
While advanced calculations do need softwares and dedicated calculators, basic calculation should be something that every student should have a command over. However, this is hindered by the decision of the various Board exams to allow calculators. It tends to make students have a laid back approach towards calculation.
However, competitive exams like JEE, NTSE, KVPY, BITSAT and various other entrance examinations do not allow the use of calculators for problem-solving. As a result, the laid back students tend to get really uncomfortable with these exams for not allowing calculators…and crib a lot.
To gauge the calculation skills of my batches, i usually hand over simple calculations to them. What i find, however, is a large number of answers… at times none are correct!
You may have a mixed reaction to what I’m writing here, but i believe that you should know the class background beforehand.
A major issue is that students expect to be taught calculation skills, much in the same way that a chapter is taught. However, any skill can only be acquired through rigorous practice….it can’t be merely taught.
A Disturbing thing i am observing is that students are getting less interested in the hard work they should put in to get what they want to achieve…. their dependence on teachers and coaching is alarmingly increasing.
It is a scientifically tested fact that people who can mentally/orally perform calculations have high mental strength. Note, mental strength is not intelligence….it is your will power, temperament and confidence.
Any competitive exam is basically a test of mental strength and not knowledge. It is a sincere reminder to students that they can’t pass JEE or other competitive exams if they don’t take their calculation speed and corresponding errors seriously.
Neither Physics nor Maths nor Physical Chemistry can be scoring until you love doing calculations and try to make the calculations as accurate as you can.
It seems to students that Organic and Inorganic chemistry are subjects written and designed in heaven…. as they lack the “headache of calculation”.
A common experience from my classroom is that all students with a pragmatic attitude towards fast and accurate calculations are the ones who score high in every exam and get a good rank, and the ones who detest calculations tend to lose out due to silly calculation errors.
The only way to increase speed and accuracy of your calculation is to increase the love you have got inside for any kind of calculation.
Basically, practice calculation anytime and anywhere….assign yourself random questions involving calculations, like say 99×57, etc. Basically, challenge yourself. Practice it daily. And slowly you shall feel a tremendous surge in your calculation speed.
Let me tell you a short story…..