Are Math hints helpful?

The following examples are from an Indian Math textbook:

1) The length, breadth and height of a wall are 8m, 0.2m, and 16m respectively. The length, breadth and height of a brick are 20cm, 15cm and 5cm respectively. How many bricks are needed to make the wall?

Hint: Number of bricks=Volume of wall/volume of one brick

2) A bicycle covers 3km distance. The radius of its wheel is 21cm. How many rotations did the wheel make to cover the distance?

Hint: Number of rotations=Distance covered by bicycle/circumference of wheel

I often wonder about the purpose of such hints.  The basic question one needs to ask is what kids are supposed to learn in the math class.  I think the main purpose of solving a math problem is not only to find a solution to the given problem but also to develop good problem solving skills. In this day and age having loads of information is not that important because information can be easily searched for on the web. However, the ability to apply that information to solve a problem is critical.

Our kids are going to grow up in an ever changing world where they are going to face problems that we haven’t even imagined. They should be ready to handle new problems and unpredictable situations. If the Math curriculum and the text books are designed to reduce the scope of the bare minimum thinking and problem solving, we are not letting our kids learn, let alone experience the fun in tackling the tricky math problems. These hints are supposed to “help” the kids, but in the long run, this is not helping.

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