© Abramson Math, 2022

Math teaches thinking ant not just solving sums

Alexandr Belskikh tells about his studies with Yakov Abramson
— In the first grade at the “Intellectual” school, we were divided into two tracks: mathematical and philological. I was in a mathematical track. At first, Yakov Abramson scared me because he was talking loudly in a scary voice. Then I realized that he is really invested in his subject and wants us to study and do well. This is why he is so emotionally charged when he talks.

I liked two things. First, that material was difficult but interesting. You had to really make an effort to understand it. Second, Yakov Abramson did not explain everything learnedly… I mean if we were studying the binary system, we had cats and mice. Mice were the first digit, cats — the second.

I do not remember exactly, but I think, in the first grade, we had even basic geometry and mathematical games. But it was still cats, mice, tigers… So I relaxed and realized that it was not that scary here, and that I could achieve something here. And I began to like Yakov Abramson.
Simultaneously in the usual math classes, we were doing sums and solving problems that a teacher would give us; we were going along with the textbook. So in the usual math classes, we had to learn how to count and make this skill automatic, but in Yakov Abramson’s classes, we were learning how to think.

I had an F almost in every test! So at least five F’s a year. But they were not something to be ashamed of. It was more important to see whether you had grown up since the last test.

Yakov Abramson would say: “These are just numbers!” He never scolded us for grades. Actually, I don’t remember him scolding us at all. It might have been only in the case when somebody would draw a flower instead of solving the problem. But even if it was hard for a student, they failed, but they tried, Yakov Abramson would patiently explain everything. And having analyzed a problem, he would always ask if everyone got it.

I took to math already in the first grade. I really tried to solve difficult problems in class. And I made some progress. In primary school, I was second at the “Two times two” olympiad. But real successes started in the fourth and fifth grades.
I constantly participate in the All-Russian Olympiad of School Students. Last year, when I was in the sixth grade, at the municipal stage, I was solving problems from the eighth grade and got 32 points out of 32. There was also a math festival for the sixth graders, where I got the first-degree award. But I used to write problems for the sixth grade! Yakov Abramson would joke that it was about simply coming and taking our prizes. It was really easy for us!

Usually, Yakov Abramson would advise us on what grade we should go for at the Olympiad. He would say if we were prepared to solve the problems from the higher grades. This year, I transferred to the 7th grade of school no. 179. In October the school stage of the All-Russian Olympiad of School Students will begin. I decided to try to solve the problems of the ninth grade there.

The school no. 179 is a specialized math school, but I miss Yakov Abramson’s classes and the atmosphere there. It was so cool! He has a different attitude towards mathematics. He sees something else in it! A usual teacher is just giving out grades, berating you for an F, and commending you for an A, right? And they do not show any special involvement in the subject. Indeed, how could one love solving sums?

But Yakov Abramson is very involved. I think it is called enthusiasm. He has charisma — when he enters the classroom everyone gets quiet. Although he simply entered the room. And when you ask a question in class, a discussion would start! He aims to make us think and not just solve sums automatically. He never gives us solutions — you have either understood it yourself, or the students who have would explain it. Yakov Abramson would only give us some hints to nudge us towards the solution, to make us think.

It is the same with homework. You try to do it, think about a solution, and would like to discuss it, so you send an email to Yakov Abramson saying that I managed to do this and this, and I think to do that. And he would send back some hints. If you have been thinking for a long time and have not been able to solve a problem — it is nothing to be ashamed of. The only thing that is discouraged is when you have not been thinking at all.
The way that Yakov Abramson is teaching math really helps develop your brain. Of course, if you are going to be a biologist you probably won’t need to know about rings from algebra, but this knowledge develops your brain, and you can use this in every walk of life.
Besides math, I have liked computer science since first grade. This year we have begun with physics, but I think I already like it. Probably my future job will be connected to these subjects.