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The Rediff Special/Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi

February 26, 2004

Numbers had always given the jitters to Vivek Singh (name changed). A student of class 10 in Delhi, his anxiety only increased as board examinations drew closer.

But for Vivek there was a solution, which wasn't earlier available to students who had a morbid fear of numbers.

All Vivek did was call a toll-free helpline to overcome his anxiety. Students taking up high-pressure board examinations of class 10 and 12 have a friend now.

Vivek, who had somehow managed to pass in mathematics throughout his schooling, had given most of his time to the tough subject, but still feared it.

"I was scared so much that I could not solve the problems. I had a feeling that it was not my cup of tea," said Vivek, a student of the government school in Sarai Julena in south Delhi. "I am taking tuition also. Please pray for me."

Vivek is more confident now after calling up the helpline. When Vivek called up the helpline for the first time he popped the question straight. "Sir I want help in mathematics."

The counsellor at the other end responded warmly. "Yes, tell me. What is your name?"

After introduction, Vivek told the counsellor that he was having problems in trigonometry. "I cannot remember the formula. I cannot solve height and distance questions," he revealed.

The counsellor told him to remember the basic relation of sine, cos and tan, simplifying other formulae of trigonometry. The counsellor also gave him 'tricks and methods' of solving problems easily.

Coming to height and distance questions, he asked Vivek to first understand the problem and then draw the figure. "Don't forget to draw the figures because you will get marks for that," he said. He then told Vivek the frequently asked questions on height and distance.

Vivek felt comfortable. Looking for more tips, he asked the counsellor for important questions. "I suggest you to solve the questions of last 10 years. And if you have any problem then call me or anyone here," the counsellor said.

Mathematics is a subject in which one has the potential to score full marks, the counsellor said. "Practice makes you improve. And this will bring confidence in you. If you are not confident then you will not be able to solve even small problems."

"What is your name sir?" Vivek asked. "I am Abhinav. I teach mathematics at St Stephen's College," the counsellor said. Today Vivek and Abhinav are good friends.

Apart from help in the subject, Abhinav gave Vivek tips on how to tackle examinations psychologically.

"Actually you know everything but you forget. So when you wake up in the morning just close your eyes and sit quietly for five minutes," Abhinav advised Vivek. "This is called meditation. Feel as if you don't know remember anything. Don't think of anything and just sit quietly."

"Drink lot of water. Keep a bottle with you and drink every five minutes. This will help you concentrate more and keep your blood temperatures low," Abhinav advised.

Today Vivek feels fully prepared to take on the board examination and come out on top.

The helpline, started by Delhi-based voluntary group Mathematical Sciences Foundation, is working at Delhi University's St Stephen's College.  The following are the phone numbers:


The helpline started functioning on February 19 and will continue till the exams are over. Since its inception, the helpline has been getting dozens of calls every day. It operates between 9:30 am and 2 pm.

The counsellors here are mostly teachers of the Delhi University colleges who have experience in dealing with school students and their curriculum.

Apart from calling up the counsellors, students can also send in their queries at the following email ids:

Dinesh Singh, professor of mathematics at Delhi University, is one of the members of the Foundation that has started the helpline.

Professor Singh says the counsellors try to provide statistical analysis of past question papers, frequently asked questions and topics.

"Though mathematics is fun, lots of students are scared of it. So we thought of helping them," said Professor Singh. "I am happy that it is doing well."

But, he added, the helpline is not just about mathematics. "We also tell the students about the right food, nutrition, exercise and sleep requirements."

"We try to give them emotional support," he said.

Though the helpline is for students from across the country, so far only students from Delhi have called. "The helpline is toll free only in Delhi. Therefore we are getting calls from Delhi only," said Singh.

Rama Sharma, spokesperson for the Central Board of Secondary Education, said: "The helplines are really helpful. We also have helplines in almost all states. It operates only before the exams. Eminent teachers and schools are involved in this.  The counsellors give personalised suggestions."

"We provide counselling in all subjects, not just mathematics. There are several voluntary helplines working currently," she added.

Bharathi Sharma, principal of the Amity International School in south Delhi, said, "Students need some extra support in the last minute and then the counselling centers have a role to play."

Image: Uttam Ghosh

The Rediff Specials

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