A year ago today, news of Maryam Mirzakhani’s death broke on social media. The forty-year old Iranian mathematician succumbed to breast cancer after a valiant, three-year fight.Mirzakhani was born in Iran, and won the World Mathematics Olympiad twice at the age of 17 and 18. She received a field’s medal at the age of 37 — an honour deems the equivalent of0the Nobel Prize in Mathematics. Maryam’s research basically covers some of the specific branches of mathematics and complex geometry, the most exciting queries like the movements of planets, the discovery of other universes, and other complicated problems related to space exploration could be better understood and solved through her ground-breaking research in mathematics.A year after her death, remembering her makes me wonder why Pakistani students are still lagging behind their counterparts in neighbouring countries, specifically in subjects such as math. Though Iran and Pakistan are neighbouring countries located in the same region with similar cultures and traditions, yet there have been a lot of changes in the Iranian society since the revolution. During this time, the process of modernisation was imposed through diverse reforms that eventually boiled down the Iranian educational system into atypical one, in comparison to other educational models all across the world.Because Maryam was a foreigner she did not speak English properly, but instead of feeling guilty or embarrassed she used to put down her lecture notes into Persian. However, in Pakistan, our educational system is obsessed with fluency in EnglishInitially, the Iranian Parliament passed laws and various legal rules concerning the goals and operation of the educational system. Later on, efforts were made on a large scale to design a curriculum, and textbooks have been rewritten several times to incorporate Islam and science. The Iranian government emphasised more on research to look into the difficulties students had with math, through their learning disability service. This service proved instrumental in recognising the basic troubles students used to experience while solving mathematical problems or equations. Mathematics is a very powerful instrument of knowledge and history is witness that there was no big civilisation that wasn’t powerful in mathematics. It is a science that improves the potential of human perception and thinking; it might not help to teach us how to love someone or forgive an enemy, but it gives us every reason to hope that every problem must have a reasonable solution.Mathematics has always been a subject that children usually avoid. This situation is worst in Pakistan due to the severe defects in our educational system. In 2017, a report by AlifAilan highlighted the state of education in terms of mathematics and science subjects all across Pakistan. The average math-score for class four students in the national education assessment system examination was 433 out of 1,000.Furthermore, the report clearly shows that a majority of students fared very poorly in computation and geometry. At the primary level, 2.30 percent of students could not perform well in numerical operations, while this percentage fell down to 1.1 only for students in matriculation. This situation was quite alarming and unequivocally pointed out the less focus of our educational policy experts and teachers towards children and learning outcomes. Although, the weakness of students in mathematics involves several factors, but specifically it relates with children’s intentions and personal skills, many of the students don’t have enough motivation to learn math’s ultimately leads to their educational downfall, when they are forced either by parents or teachers to learn complex algebra, computations or geometry. The main culprit is the condition of schools, especially, in smaller cities and rural areas, all across Pakistan. The country also suffers from low-quality book content and a lack of trained teachers.There is a serious need of evaluating math book contents from primary to middle level and syllabus should be maintained as per the number of learning hours and number of students in a specific class.It has been noticed that any time when highly-skilled teachers use textbooks to teach math in their classes, their students’ grade was higher. Therefore, use of solution manuals and math keybooks should be banned. We have a few educational models from other developing countries, such as Malaysia and South Korea, where textbooks are composed by teachers, education specialists, and subject specialists under the special supervision of the education ministry.However, in Pakistan, the real problem lies with inappropriate recruitments of teacher. A majority of teachers are unskilled, not familiar with new ways of teaching, and have no actual training. Our educational policymakers should turn a new leaf and set some math teaching goals, which are emphasised more on developing conceptual strength and reasoning.Once in an interview Maryam Mirzakhani unveiled that when she just enrolled in Harvard University, because she was a foreigner she did not speak English properly, but instead of feeling guilty or embarrassed she used to put down her lecture notes into Persian for quite sometime. However, in Pakistan, our educational system is obsessed with fluency in English rather than excellence in mathematics or other science subjects.Pakistan has no lack of talent at all, we have notable women such as Dr Nargis Mawalwala, Hiba Rehmani, and Dr Abben Marker Kabrajee. Capable women such as Dr Tasneem Zehra, the first youngest string theorist, Dr Maryam Sultana, Pakistan’s first PhD in astrophysics and Samar Yusuf, who make nation proud all over the world.The only thing we need is to divert from our decades old educational policy and traditional ways of teaching. We will have to introduce our students to aspects of mathematics related to personality building. In order to cope with future challenges, great attention is needed to mind ensure that our children understand maths and its conceptual frameworks, which in turn can augment their problem-solving abilities.The writer is a freelance science journalistPublished in Daily Times, July 15th 2018.