Through her personal experiences, Ancois Huysamen delves into how the negative perception and unimaginative methods of teaching inculcate a fear and dislike for mathematics among students. She insists that Mathematics, if taught properly, is for everyone to use and even enjoy.

**“**The article delves into some important points regarding how mathematics is perceived and how students who do not excel in the subject are made to feel “less competent”. The writer also shares her own experiences and how she came to overcome her fear of mathematics.” Neeraja

Mathematics is part of our everyday lives. It’s one of the first subjects we are taught from a young age. It is something any and every one can do and is free to be used, but most people see it as intimidating and scary due to the way it is perceived and taught. Many people can feel inferior to others when they are not able to think in the same way mathematically. They may think that they are not ‘good enough’ to understand mathematics. It is true that some concepts in higher mathematics are more nuanced and deeply or easily understood by some than others, but this does not mean that one can’t think mathematically. The world has perpetuated a wrong idea about mathematics over generations making people believe that they need to possess a certain special quality to do mathematics. This way of thinking should be challenged and changed. Mathematics is a part of us. We use it in every field of learning and use it to convey ideas to each other when we need to systematically prove that something is true. Everything is structured upon mathematics; it is the basis of everything we know.

Mathematics could be an intimidating subject and the way it is taught further negatively influences the perception of mathematics in people’s mind. In high school mathematics is very restricted. We are taught what is prescribed by the department of education and there is no room for exploring other mathematical ideas. This could discourage people from taking mathematics in high school since it demotivates them from further exploring it and seeing the wonders of it. It is true that there are certain things that we need to know to be able to do mathematics well but there should be a better way to introduce it to people such that it encourages them to do mathematics and not scare them off. It should be taught in a more engaging way and learners should be given the opportunity to explore it, have fun with it, learn from it but not in the regimented forced way they are being taught now.

The world has internalized this idea that if you don’t do or understand mathematics you are inferior to others who are better at it and that you need to do mathematics to get somewhere in life. But this is not completely true. Mathematics is indeed very much a part of our day to day lives and we use it without even knowing it. You don’t need to be a genius to know that 2+2 = 4! Of course, there are concepts and problems in mathematics that have difficulty levels that might be too complicated or involved for some people to quickly understand or appreciate and that is okay too. You don’t necessarily need to understand all the nuance and abstraction associated with mathematics to appreciate its value and beauty.

Mathematics is there for everyone to use, the kind of mathematics you use varies depending on what you need it for. For me personally mathematics has always been intimidating. However, I have come to realize that it helps you to not only solve problems in your textbook, but it also helps you to solve daily life problems. It’s one of the subjects that forces you to think further, to think outside the box. It develops the way you think and helps you to solve problems in a creative and easy way. The way mathematics was taught to me in school made me narrow-sighted to what could be done with it. To me it was just a systematic way of solving a problem and nothing more, but I can see now that it is so much more. Mathematics 278 (a second-year course in Abstract mathematics at the University of Stellenbosch) showed me the beauty of mathematics. It challenged me in so many ways to think outside the box and really understand a problem. It also helped me evolve innovative ways to find a solution without that systematic way of solving as there was no other way to do it. You must be innovative when creating new proofs, engaging with the work, and having fun with it. This helped me in my daily life as well, as it helped me develop the skill of thinking and problem-solving in a way I have never done before.

This is the way mathematics should be introduced to learners. By saying this I don’t mean that normal problem-solving should not be taught anymore but there should be another aspect that should also be inculcated so that it makes it fun to learn mathematics and encourages the learners to explore the more creative aspects of mathematics as well.

### Ancois Huysamen

Third year student, Studying BSc: Abstract Mathematics, Second major Chemistry Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch.