CONVERTING SCHOOL INTO A HUB OF INDEPENDENT LEARNING CLUSTERS

The paper describes some of the serious problems of channelizing the youth energy into the right direction since childhood by using school setting as a platform. Schools find it difficult to keep both high and low achievers meaningfully engaged in lessons designed for the whole class. Hence there is a widespread recognition of the need to create opportunities for special enrichment and remedial classes for the above categories of students in a school. The positive personal experience of the author in conducting enrichment classes in mathematics for elementary students in schools and out of school settings, when shared with classroom teachers, principals and parents, convinced most of them of the need to institutionalize the newly created school based special learning opportunities. Some schools have made efforts to integrate this initiative with the “subject clubs” or “pull-out” class. Some schools have found it easier to organize these special classes outside school hours with additional resources mobilized with the partnership with parents. These initiatives to create multiple learning “tracks” for different “clusters” of students in the same school seem to be the manifestation of an overall twenty first century global trend of change in school education.

Problem Definition: As the national curriculum as it is designed keeps the cognitive abilities of an average student in mind, then those who are above and below set average standards finds themselves a misfit for the present education system. As the time passes they start thinking that they don’t fit into the system which results in two things. The first is that they, start losing interest and the other is they take a back seat and start taking things for granted. This in the long term is not a good sign for our system, as the potential of these students remains underutilized. Not only students from above mentioned category but most of the students are losing interest and have started seeing education as a burden. What is it that makes them loose their interest in education? One of the answers I believe is lack of challenge. There is no sense of achievement that “Yes I have done it”, because most of the times students are spoon fed and there is nothing left for them to struggle. However, have we ever heard of any parent hiring tutor for teaching video games to their children, but still the student is willing to learn it independently and ready to put in hours just to cross one level. The reason is that responsibility is on the shoulder of the student, there is struggle and afterwards there is a sense of achievement. Why can’t we put the same struggle in our education system? Why are we trying to make it easy for students every day? Aren’t we underestimating our students or we don’t  have enough competent teachers to materialize this struggle in the syllabus? I will leave this question here for you to think?  “As said by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile”. For a student this moment can be a struggle to solving a problem forgetting everything around him/her and afterwards having experienced the joy of understanding. For a teacher it can be playing role of a mentor and providing opportunity to students to struggle with a problem or a concept. Unless we prepare children to go through the tough path of learning to develop their foundation we are somewhere not doing justice towards our responsibilities.

The assessment standards set in school and boards are very low, which are again a main reason for students not to struggle and learn. If the assessment level will go up, overall scores of the students will come down; the parents will not like it. Hence there will be a question mark on the performance of the school? Why can’t we use relative grading system? Can’t we set the paper hard enough; involve higher order thinking in the curriculum. We all know that the board exams are very much devalued today. The good institutions are setting up their own entrance examinations. The bigger problem arises when, instead of raising the level of the assessment in school we are trying to pull down the assessment level of the top notch institution of the country. As a result in the institutions like IIT’s the number of students entering and failing the courses inside are increasing and to prevent that again the assessment level inside IITs has gone down. So overall where are we heading?

Possible Solution: From my experience in conducting classes in a school, one possible solution to this problem of dying interest can be provided by converting classroom into small learning groups called clusters. These independent clusters will serve as platform for nurturing the talent of the high achievers and finishing the backlogs of the low achievers. The role of a teacher would be more of a guide where a particular cluster will engage with the teacher for a period of 5-10 min to discuss the problems they are facing. These clusters can be a platform to provide rigorous training to these students in a particular field they are good at. Students performing well should be pushed to the next level. Then still we will have some students who will be willing to go to the next higher level of the subject or skill of their interest. For them small independent Clubs in the schools can be created which will act as a platform to stretch their potential and go beyond the set boundaries of the curriculum. Developing such kind of need based curriculum for these clusters/clubs will not be an easy task and will require lots of research and efforts to be put in. Then grooming of the passionate teachers and the new ones will create in house resources for the school to run these cluster based classrooms and clubs regularly without making a special effort. This will help us convert students into independent learners and thinkers.

Implementation:

How to start: To start such independent clusters and clubs all the stake holders like parents, students, schools and school teachers need to see some incentive. Preparing students for the talent search tests is one such incentive and is of growing interest in India. As institution, schools feel that their prestige depends on the results of these tests. There are three reasons for it; it recognizes the fact that board exams are not the only way of judging the talent. It also shows that the school is interested in students’ development by exposing them to these types of tests. School is providing an opportunity to the above average children to utilize their maximum potential.

For Parents it will be an added value and recognition for their child. For students it will be an appreciation and nurturing of their talent. The teacher or the trainer will be the catalyst for the change while developing their skills at the same time. This creates a win-win situation for all the stake holders and thus serves as a perfect blend to launch such clusters in different fields. Preparing a group of children using textbooks of higher level or simply exposing them to different types of questions from the previous papers doesn’t solve the problem. It requires an overall different approach and mindset for both the teacher and the students with a detailed analysis of the various areas of intellectual development that are being tested in these tests. Lateral and creative thinking, problem solving, language comprehension of higher order, understanding complex problems, logically sequencing the steps and similar other cognitive strategies are all very important in developing the new habits of the mind. Critical thinking leading to specific strategies for solving different problems called as cognitive strategies could be imbibed by the students only when the instructors observe the students in actions. The instructor should also reflect on their work before arriving at effective strategies for solving a problem through a collaboration of loud thinking process.

Running such kind of training programmes in school will slowly convert school into a hub of independent learning clusters.

Now the biggest question is how these clusters will function and what will be their role in nurturing the talent of the students? As we can see this small cluster model already exists in many schools and it is functioning, but a major drawback that is seen is that these clusters are focused on very short term goals and the disconnect with the research going around the world. So after achieving the short term goals, WHAT NEXT is the biggest question? The motive of these clusters/clubs should be nurturing the talent of the students continuously and help them maximize their learning potential. If seen carefully a child is with a school for some 14 odd years, If we focus on devoting 1 hour everyday for developing these students on a particular field it gives us approximately 5000 hours with every child to work on nurturing their interest and this will help them gain a good insight of the subject.

Curriculum development: The school may offer need and aptitude based learning activities for improving the pace and the quality of learning depending upon the need of the clusters and preferences made by the students. In order to offer such learning opportunities in a school adequate preparation has to be made by the school to develop interest, motivation and professional competence of the classroom teachers who could be chosen as the initiators of such new opportunities. Higher order thinking should be introduced within the scope of the national curriculum to enrich the understanding of the students. We also need to think upon long duration projects where students will be using different skill sets from various areas and come up with something interesting. Through such projects they would learn something new and create something original rather than copying and pasting from Google or other such sources. Curriculum development can be a continuous process and we don’t need to make curriculum for all the years in one go. First we can make curriculum for one or two years and then while this curriculum will be implemented the teachers and the trainers will get time to refine the previous curriculum and to make the new curriculum for the coming years.

Identification of the students: But to start this thing we need to focus on each and every child since beginning and teachers need to identify their interest and skills. Till class V, we can identify the interest and skill set of the children. Then onwards we can start dividing the class into need based clusters. Then the other part is to implement need based and supplementary curriculum for these clusters and clubs. Starting at this early age will also help the school system to mould these students according to the need and demand of the clusters/clubs and many supplementary things along with the national curriculum can be taught. So if we can identify the students from a very early age, it will give the focused work an edge over the distractions and will make a positive impact on the students’ mind.  It will further help the school system by making this training job easier for them as the students will be aligned to their goal.

Identification of Teachers/Trainers: Teachers in the school should be identified who have passion, skill and enthusiasm to initiate these clubs/clusters. If the level of expertise is not available in the school then the school should hire special trainers for developing such skills of the students. One teacher should be attached with the trainer, so that the teacher can also get trained and become capable of taking that group further. This will in turn generate in house recourses for the school and will give teachers an appreciation and sense of responsibility. This appreciation will act as a catalyst for the teacher and the other teachers in the school to work in the same direction.  For this to be feasible these teachers should be comparatively free from other responsibilities. Hence they will be able to focus on research for development of these clusters/clubs. The school will need to hire 20-30% more teachers for fulfilling those responsibilities. For hiring those teachers school will need extra funds. Those extra funds can be adjusted in the fees of the students who are getting the special training and the parents will be more than willing to share the cost, if they will see the development in their child.

Wind of change: Once this trend will be started in one field then the same concept can be extended to different areas of interest of students from programming to animation to creative writing to pure sciences to theatre and many more. Once this one club/cluster will get appreciation from school and outside, others will also get motivated and will start moving in the same direction. This will create so many self motivated, independent learning clusters turning school into a hub of interesting and creative activity for the students. Till the time they will be passing out of school, these hubs will help them become expert in their areas of interest and also develop them as a better human being.

At last I would like to thank Prof. Jalaluddin for being there and guiding the project in the right direction. Without his guidance and vision it would not have been possible to initiate this project. I would also like to thank the Principal of “Bluebells School International” for giving me this opportunity to conduct this experiment in her school.

Few questions that teachers must ask themselves before entering a class….

As we all are seeing what is happening to education these days. So without saying much I would just like to pose a few questions which I started asking before entering in a class and these questions aroused during my experiences while training and teaching. Just few simple questions and I request you guys to answer them to yourself.
























  • Can I answer all the WHY’s raised in the class?
  • Don’t I need to do some homework, if I give so much of homework to students?
  • What should be the Homework of a student?
  • Why does a student need tuitions after the class when the same subject is taught in school?
  • What are the values that I want to see in my students? Do I have the same values?
  • How many teachers want their own children to be like them?
  • Have I ever thought that the parents and students come to the school with the faith that their child’s future is in the hands of the school?
  • Am I patient and delicate enough to handle a child’s doubt and answer her without getting irritated?
  • Does the punishment I give to the student is making any difference to their thinking?
  • Am I able to make any impact in the social lives of the students? How many students have told me their personal problems? Am I open to take such responsibility?
  • Am I actually adding value to myself? If no then how can I add value for my students?
  • Do students have any association with the class? Are they eagerly waiting for the class? Have I ever heard a student saying “Are we done for today sir/madam, teach us for 5 more minutes?”
  • What are students looking in a teacher?
  • How many students have said ‘love you’ to a teacher or hugged him?
Regards
Rahul Khandelwal
Founder, Unlearn Formulae

“Magical Transformation in kids” 20 kids > 40 hours > 3 months

Progress Report: Project Reflection

Report from August 2011 to October 2011

Project Reflection

Project Reflection is a program run by Unlearn Formulae with Bluebells School International to train the brightest students to develop their higher order thinking skills focusing on their holistic development. The short term goal is to crack a interschool competitive exam Aryabhatta.

It requires an overall different approach and mindset for both the teacher and the students with a detailed analysis of the various areas of intellectual development that are being tested in these tests. Lateral thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, language comprehension of higher order, understanding complex problems, logically sequencing the steps and similar other cognitive strategies are all very important in developing the new habits of the mind. Critical thinking leading to specific strategies for solving different problems called as cognitive strategies could be imbibed by the students only when the instructors observe the students in actions and reflect on their work before arriving at effective strategies for solving a problem through a collaboration of loud thinking process.

The course was started from 6th of Aug and till the month of October, 20 sessions of 2 hours each are conducted with the students. The topics covered till now are:

  • Number system
  • HCF-LCM
  • Fractions
  • Percentage and Decimals
  • Average

These topics are covered with a fair depth of the above mentioned concepts followed by an extensive practice of the topics.

Achievements during these three months:

Besides academics we as a group are approaching the different skills which are very important for the overall development of the brain of the students. Initially when Project Reflection was started we were facing a lot of difficulty in the following areas:

  • Lack of focus while solving a problem.
  • Time management issues while solving a sheet.
  • Willingness to put an effort after failing once.
  • Collaborative working to help each other grow.
  • Self Discipline.
  • Speed of teaching.

But during the course of these three months we have succeeded in breaking the initial inertia of all these habits and channelizing these young minds into a new direction. The greatest breakthrough in this course of time is that the students have realized that they are lacking something and they want to learn to bridge the gap. They have realized that to stand in the competition they need discipline; they need hard work and need to focus more.

They have started managing their time in a better way. A new exercise was brought into practice for the students. Every night before going to sleep they have to plan their next day and set their short term goals (hour-wise) and whenever they end up wasting their time they should write “WASTED MY TIME” in capitals so that they should see themselves and reflect on it that how much time they are wasting. Amazing results were seen from this exercise and within 3 days students started saying that now they are left with too much time after doing everything. While this exercise of time management was going on we were also emphasizing on the group learning part because I believe that small group learning is the only way to learn fast and better. Whenever I give a small practice session in the class I give them group wise and then mark each group. The new element that I have introduced is that if anybody in the group doesn’t know how to do the given sum , the group will not be given marks. This has made them feel the joy of making others understand and helping others.  After an effort of 3 months these students have realized the same and in class also if they are stuck somewhere and if I will offer them help they will say give us some more time we will do it on our own. Students are taking initiatives to come on the board from their side and that too almost everybody in the class is excited for coming on the board and explaining things to class. Though their speed and everything has improved and the new inertia is about to get build but still we are not at that level where we want to be but very soon we will be there.

So for this report I would like to say that in these three months we have achieved a lot in terms of realization and some glimpses of self learning can be seen in the class.

I would like to share what these students have learnt in these three months in their own words:

Students Voices

Rishit Thakur

I learnt how to work in a team and I have increased my problem solving skills.

Varun Mittal

If I understand any question it seems like a baby question. My speed is increased very much but I think I should be more disciplined.

Amulya Bhatia

I have started doing much better in Math. Before I had joined these classes my speed of doing the work was slow but now I have learnt how to manage time. I have made a timetable for my studies so that my time is not wasted. Not even one percent of my time is wasted in silly things. Now my speed is much faster than before. The worksheets I used to do in half an hour, I do it in ten to fifteen minutes. Before I had joined these classes I used to get bored while studying but now its great fun as our sir gives us worksheets which are very enjoyable. This gives me more interest in studies. My understanding of problem sums has increased. In problem sums, I needed help from my parents and teachers but now I do all sums myself. That is one plus point in me.

I am very truthful to sir and share him everything even if I have done a mistake. I am much more disciplined than before. I love Math.

In our Aryabhatta class we say the truth fearlessly. Staying in this class has made all the aryabhatta children become more disciplined.

Shristi Taneja

I do a time management activity which is a part of aryabhatta class and now I waste less time and my work finishes faster. I don’t know why but after joining Aryabhatta classes I always want to study more. Sir Rahul always clarifies all the doubts, he always accepts our things what we say but doesn’t accept excuses.

Dhwani Tekchandani

I found that Math is not difficult but we make Math difficult. People say that we shouldn’t praise ourself  but still I say that now I am thousand times better in Math and other things.

Mahak Kohli

Since I came in Aryabhatta my Math has improved a lot. I have learnt much about teamwork. I have got problem solving skills and I had also answered a 10th class question.

Kartikey Sharma

I think I am weak in percentage and I hope to ask the doubts with Sir. I know my doubts will be cleared. I love aryabhatta and hope to stand and show my School.

Shreiyanshi

I am enjoying my aryabhatta classes. Till now I have learnt many different methods for one question. Aryabhatta has made my mind sharp and I am now very speedy at Math. Aryabhatta worksheets are fun to do because the questions are new with new stories and new methods.

Prabhnoor Monga

I am now able to answer difficult to difficult Math problems with a little more concentration on things. I have improved a lot in my Math.

Bahar Kaur Chatwal

Aryabhatta classes helped me a lot! We’ve learnt to utilize our free time besides wasting it by learning. When we just started to keep a record of all the things, we realized that we waste more than 9 hours a day. I also took some sticky notes and wrote my tasks of the day which I had to complete. I could complete my homework on time and did it very simply with focus and concentration and was determined to complete each task on time.I have been trying to be honest towards others by helping them!

Math is not a problem but a solution to make our brain work. We learn things that are clearer and we cover them in less time. I would like to continue Math all my life. My role model is sir Rahul and I will never forget these interesting classes and sir too.

Infact this girl has made a small questionnaire about herself and wrote the analysis by using fractionsm. I am really glad that these students have started applying the learned things in real life situations on their own.

Sourabhi Aggarwal

I have learnt a lot from sir and aryabhatta along with Math I have also learnt how to forgive.

Aryabhatta not only means Math but also how to do time management and focus on your efficiency. I gained a lot from this class. Now I sit more than two hours and concentrate on my work. I find my sir very friendly and respectful. He inspires me a lot. While he is teaching he is delighted, energetic, humble joyfull and friendly. He just becomes our friend. When I was in grade four I was loosing my interest and now I am gaining it back. We can become a great person and can do a lot good. I have not done a lot in my life before but now I can do it all. I would like to thank Sir and my school for giving me this opportunity.

Indu Gupta, Mother of Vaibhav Gupta

I am seeing a positive change in my child and now I can see that he is putting in more efforts to solve a problem and now he doesn’t give up if he is not able to solve the problems instead he constantly put an effort to solve it.

At last I would like to add that these classes are not just meant to be Math classes but it’s an effort to convert the students into an exceptional human being rather than just being a robot. It is definitely going beyond classroom and impacting their lives and the process of making them independent thinkers have started. They have started loving being thrown out of their comfort zone and are ready to accept the change and look forward for a solution rather than asking too many questions. The values which we all want to see in a student are getting discovered by themselves and they are enjoying this journey.
 
I would like to thank Jalaludin Sir for being there and guiding the project in the right direction. Without his guidance and vision it would not have been possible to bring this change. His experience has helped me nurture myself and this project.
 
I would also like to thank the Principal of “Bluebells School International” for giving me this opportunity to interact with such beautiful souls.

Thanks

Rahul Khandelwal

Founder, Unlearn Formulae

Open letter to Parents….

Math is not a problem to be solved but a number to be ENJOYED

Dear Parent…

Have youever heard of any parent hiring tutor for teaching video games to their children? No!!! Then why is it needed for Math. Introducing UNLEARN FORMULAE; where your child will be taught how to study in general using Math as a tool while making them independent thinkers and learners. Presenting a unique Math Club for students from VI to X.  An  initiation by IIT Delhi Alumni.

I am trying to decode the thinking process of the students by breaking down their thinking structure using Mathematicsas a tool. Once they start translating their thoughts and thinking patterns, it is going to impact their lives in a big way. It will help them deal with problems and life in a more efficient manner. It’s the process of converting them into exceptional human beings.

The whole purpose of yoga is to unlearn what we have learnt and to break free from the stereotypical thought constructs. To set the mind free is not an easy task. To set it free from the confines of our own thoughts, we need to put efforts and un-condition this mind.

So if you are ready to throw your kids out of their comfort zone and want to make them learn to struggle, send them to Unlearn Formulae. Tell your kids at home that it will not be an easy task and lot of efforts has to be put in. If they are ready to take up the challenge, I as a mentor have tried to design a system that will make this journey enjoyable and easier. Let there be no doubt that breaking this pattern initially will take something, otherwise I don’t want kids and Parents to go through something they are not prepared for. Let me assure you that in six months you will see a positive change in your child. Please convey the same thing to the people you are referring to.

Warm Regards,
Rahul Khandelwal
Founder, Unlearn Formulae
 
Photos by: Satyam Vyas

When MATH class becomes a recess......

Parent Teacher Student Meet

Unlearn Formulae conducted its first parent teacher student meet on last Saturday, 1st October. The event was largely aimed at obtaining bi-directional feedbacks from students and parents; and Unlearn Formulae. Apart from that, the event aimed at conveying the “importance of critical thinking and putting persistence efforts”, both to the students and the parents.

The event started with Rahul Khandelwal, Founder, Unlearn Formulae giving a presentation on the journey of Unlearn Formulae as a Math Research center to Empower teachers. He talked about what led to its conceptualization and what were the initial hurdles and problems which he overcame after Unlearn Formulae was conceived. Since Unlearn Formulae is established as a lab, experiments with the teaching methodology and techniques are something which has to go hand in hand with the passage of time. Some of the experiments are bound to fail while the rest are to succeed giving us a new insight of the behavior or the brain. Rahul talked about the experiments he did along with the outcomes. Apart from that, he talked about the future plans of his Math Lab which include empowering 1 million teachers by 2015, launching a nationwide quiz and developing higher order thinking skills in students.

After presentation, the parents and the students were asked to fill in feedback form which asked them to rate the importance of which asked them to rate the parameters like interest in studies, confidence level, time management , efficiency, self discipline, analyzing power, attitude towards general problems of life and other such factors which are important to child growth. Feedback on how the students have performed on these parameters after joining Unlearn Formulae was also taken. And to the satisfaction of Unlearn Formulae, both teachers and students agreed to the point that Unlearn Formulae has helped the students improve beyond text books.

At the same time, challenging the new practices, parents were also of the view that students should be given home work. “Besides forming the five questions, they need to practice sums at home. May be they should get a sheet with 10 questions as HW for each class.”, a parent wrote in the feedback form. Parents were also of the view that there should also be a priority between time management and efforts put in solving the problem as teenagers have a lot of pressure to handle.

The event moved on to a presentation on creative thinking after this. The presentation was done by Ms Sona Shahni from Genesis. She talked about why creative thinking is important for students and how can they inculcate it. After that she conducted a small game on perceptions with the parents and students. Not only the audience enjoyed the game, but also they were amused at how children sometimes think things which we, grownups, tend to ignore.

The event concluded after the ‘critical thinking games’ but I guess the experiment of the Math Lab would go on and this event must have added something new to the findings of Rahul!

Ashish Agrawal

Problems with the Primary Education System

The basic problem with the education system in India is the ASSESSMENT SYSTEM. The examination results are often used as a proxy for the quality of education. However, such a method is fraught with great problems, as the examination system is limited in scope and coverage, as far as learning is concerned. Research has established that acquiring both cognitive and non-cognitive competencies are necessary for a child’s overall development. However, most of the research in learning achievement has focused on the assessment of cognitive skills acquired by the students. An equally reliable measure of quality of education is whether students are learning effectively by improving their knowledge, skills and abilities and also widening their experience and growing socially and morally or not. Ability to work with others, readiness to accept responsibilities and to work for public good are highly praised characteristics among school graduates. But assessment tools do not test for such skills. Due to the high pressure from the parents and the teachers to score good marks in the exams, the student is automatically forced to mug up some questions given at the end of the text book without widening their dimensions of knowledge. It also becomes very easy for the teachers to teach that way because no “What” and “Why’s” are coming from the student’s side and teacher don’t have to put efforts to clear the doubts of the students.

Now the question is why the examination system is like that and why these whats and whys are suppressed in the class! No doubt, this attitude results into gradually killing the creativity and logical reasoning of the students from their very early age. The four major reasons that are seen behind this suppression by the teachers:

  1. Inadequate Knowledge
  2. Not Trained Teachers
  3. Improper lesson Planning
  4. Lack of Motivation

Teachers in these primary schools might not know about the subject and hence they are not able to convey the concepts to the students. As they have inadequate knowledge about the subject they have a hitch in presenting themselves to the students. They are also afraid of not knowing the answers to the student’s question. To get rid of this situation instead of studying they try to avoid the questions coming from the students. In some of the cases the teachers who are teaching in these primary schools are themselves studying in colleges and were not good students at their times. They are in the school not because of their interest in teaching but they have no other options. So they always try to make their job easy resulting in supporting the existing examination system. As they are not willing to put much efforts in their work, the easiest way to show that they are working well to management and parents is to make the students learn all the questions given at the end of the chapter.

Most of them are not B.Ed.’s. No arrangement is made for their trainings; no arrangements for workshops are made to introduce them to pedagogy. Now as a result we see that these teachers do not teach the students keeping in mind that they are children but they teach them as if they are equally matured as the teacher himself is.

The teachers do not bother to put efforts in planning the lessons and syllabus. They are not even very clear of the objectives that should be achieved at the end of the chapter. Besides that, they don’t have any pre-strategic plans on how to teach a particular chapter and in-fact they don’t have any preparation for the class they are going to teach. They just go to the class as if they are going to some shop and spend an hour there. They don’t have any short-term goals (week wise objectives) due to which the inputs that the student gets is very random in nature. They don’t have any structured notes on how to teach the subject they are given and thus the growth of the student is also random in nature and they are not able to think structurally.

This is all because of the lack of motivation in the teachers and the management of the school and the worst part is that these schools are not seen as the temple of education but as only a shop which is generating profit for the management by hiring underpaid, low cost and bad quality teachers who are also there just for earning some money not for teaching the children.

These all problems together give birth to “Learning by Rote”. As a result of the above problems the child is given a set of question and answers and is asked to cram them and spit them out in the exams.

The other problem which is seen at the student’s side is that they are not able to connect their studies with their daily life. They are not able to realise the importance of education. They start taking school as burden and learning by rote is the easiest way for them to make their parents and teachers happy. So they put all their energy in scoring good marks in exams by killing their creativity and logical reasoning.

There are no excursion trips arranged for the students. The competitions such as debate, extempore, writing, general knowledge etc. are not arranged for the students to explore their expressive and comprehensive abilities. They are not encouraged for the extracurricular activities which is also responsible for limiting their exposure.

What Unlearn Formulae thinks as a solution is to EMPOWER teachers. If we are able to empower and sensitize teachers on this issue that our most of the schools these days are mere factories. What we are producing the cheap labors instead of leaders. We need to provide teachers and students both with a bigger vision than just worrying about a secure comfortable life.

Importance of MATHEMATICS

Mathematics is not just a subject but a universal tool. The language of math is same all over the world. Math is the study about numbers, patterns, shapes, estimations etc. The application of math is so vast that it is used in almost every subject. For example we can say that without math, science is not possible, whenever we need to calculate something we need math whether it is geography, astronomy, physics, chemistry, general observations of everyday life and daily transactions. In-fact, while crossing the road, our mind is also doing mathematics; for instance with what speed is the car coming, would I be able to cross the road in that time or not. Almost every sport involves math too. Math is also involved in every business from a junk seller to a manufacturer. So math is almost everywhere and is a very important element of our day to day life. If integrated properly with the human brain, math can change the world drastically.

Mathematical literacy is a must element in providing the child with the basic skills to live their life. It is one of the basic pillars for the child on which his life is, and would be standing.  So the base of this pillar needs to be really strong and clear. Mathematics helps the child in developing analytical and reasoning skills with logical and structured thoughts. Children start making observations about the phenomenon around them. Open ended questions in mathematics helps them to draw analogies between the previous concepts taught and its applications. The most interesting thing is that they get a chance to hear different point of views from their peers and discuss each other views that helps them to broaden their perspective. Many methods may be used in solving a mathematical task. Emphasis should be placed on using skills and discussion rather than seeking a unique solution. This provides them with confidence in expressing their views in front of people and also accepting and respecting views of the others. If we are able to make the children see the math involved in his daily life and activities, then certainly it would become much more than just learning. It helps the child to develop their skills in multiple dimensions simultaneously.

Approach for teaching:

Constructive approaches should be central to the mathematics curriculum. To learn mathematics children must construct their own internal structures, patterns and their own procedures for problem solving. Reading, writing and arithmetic are the three basic R’s for a child.  As in reading and writing, children invent their own procedures. We accept that children must go through the invented spelling stage before they begin to develop a concept of the structures of spelling. The same is true with the third basic R i.e. arithmetic. Children should be given the freedom to develop their own methods for problem solving. They shouldn’t be  bounded with a single method taught to them by their teacher. The teacher should be open to the discussion on the approaches used by the child. During the elementary level, the child develops his own rules and procedures for solving problems and wants to try them out. We should encourage the child to use his/her own rules and procedures by making him/her visualize the application of concepts taught. The teacher should provide them with sufficient problems and time to solve them, instead of suppressing their creativity. By experiencing many different types of problems the child become more efficient. Wider the range of problems they encounter, the more likely they are to generalize the rules and use them in new situations. Children should be taught that the procedure of arriving at the answer is more important than the answer itself. We should make him concentrate on the approaches rather than the final answer.

The concept that is to be taught to the child should be planned properly. It should include examples from their daily life and their application which will make the child interested in the concept and help him/her understand better. Problems should be designed such that children get an opportunity to explore the world around them by using their creative ideas and imaginative power. Show children how mathematics can be used creatively to estimate, represent and drawing analogy with other situations or their experiences.

The questions should be modeled such that the child starts observing patterns. They should develop their own rules and procedures for solving the given problem. This will help children to develop new ideas for problem solving with logical reasoning, so that they know why are they using this concept and how are they going to apply it.  Children should be given a fair chance to apply their own procedures and to practice the concept taught. The more the number of problems the child will solve, better the understanding he/she would develop. This will also help them in doing fast calculations and also give an initiation for the guessing work. For example, after doing a sufficient number of addition problems, he/she will be able to guess whether the answer of the next question would be less than or more than a certain figure. Thus the mind also gets involved subconsciously by the guessing activity; opening the doors for infinite possibilities.

Periodic revision of the concepts taught is very necessary, as it refreshes the previous concepts taught and helps them in solving further questions having multiple concepts. The levels of the problems should gradually become complex which will develop the child’s mind to handle complicated situations. It is commonly known that in the age group of 4-10 years, the learning curve of children is very steep. Children learn what they are taught. Instead of thinking that by using complex problems the child would be discouraged we should think the other way round i.e. if a single child would be able to solve the problem in the class, the rest of the class will automatically start doing the same problems, thus resulting in the confidence boost of the children The complex problems help them in probing and thinking about a task more deeply and more logically.

The problems on their experiences and local situations help them in seeing math as an integrated part of their life and make them realize the importance of math for their survival in the society. Make them experience math by using real-life problems. Help them in recognizing the power of math in their lives. Automatically when a child sees such immense application of the concepts taught, he would start observing those concepts in his experiences and would be aware of them whenever they are or will be applied in his life, and thus he starts learning and living math.