Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making teaching simpler

"Suppose for each 2 idlis (form of Indian bread) that you eat you will get one chocolate, so how many idlis you will have to eat to get five chocolates" asks Uddhav Sir.
Immediately I see kids counting on fingers, and most of them come up with the correct answer 10.

Now the problem is tweaked in many ways, for three choclates how many idlis? and so on, and they start enjoying it.

then finally, at the end of class, almost as after thought, Uddhav sir introduces the notation :
He also introduces the word Ratio.

The above was one of the Maths class that I attended in the school called Ananya. This is the school for the street children and I have mentioned it lot of times in my blog. It is not a formal school. All students are divided in to groups, based on their capability, and they just learn. There is no fixed curriculum, when students are perceived as eligible they give the exam through NIOS.

"For teaching multiplication we had done this project, wherein I asked student to measure the distance between our school gate to the shop that is outside from where they get chocolates. They had to measure the distance and paint the sign board on the shop for our school. So they counted the distance in the unit of their footsteps, then they measured their foot steps. And with little help they automatically figured out multiplication. Got a card board, and nicely painted it, with the number." says Shashi Aunty, who runs this full place, "This small project turned a normally boring multiplication class in to something very interesting which involved drawing, painting, and most importantly understanding what is multiplication"

When you think about it there are so many simple ways to teach everyday things to kids. Little more time consuming, but these techniques are more effective in sustaining the interest of students in subject and they appreciate the concept better.

"Most of the conventional schools don't do this kind of education because they don't have time, since they have to finish the curriculum . Here in Ananya there is no curriculum. It is full of fun and project based." adds Uddhav Sir.

On similar lines, long time back I had read this wonderful article called Lockhart's Lament. This article is more related to Maths and here the author laments against the boring form of classroom teaching. There is a very simple example in his essay related to how to calculate aread of triangle, which I really liked. I will quote from there

To calculate area first imagine a triangle inside a rectangular box:

I wonder how much of the box does the triangle takes up? Two-thirds maybe?
I do see something simple and pretty:

If I chop the rectangle into two pieces like this, I can see that each piece is cut diagonally in
half by the sides of the triangle. So there is just as much space inside the triangle as outside.
That means that the triangle must take up exactly half the box!
Hence the area is that of half the rectangle.

That makes it so simple right, area of triangle is equal to half of base and height. It is such an interesting way to teach rather than to mug the formula. The school in which I studied in never taught like this, it was always learning formulas.

The above ideas look so simple, but I am not sure how many schools adopt this. At least the school I studied never taught like this. Though the above ideas look simple, I guess it is difficult to come up with such ideas. Simple in expensive ideas that can teach science, maths etc. I also wonder if there is any resource available on web which have accumulation of such tricks/methods to teach. I have not been very successful at this search, all I have landed upon are some kits for science experiments which are way to expensive to be adopted by most of this NGO schools.

Actually Uddhav Sir, has asked me if I could come up with some ideas specially related to Maths. He has also given me some NIOS textbooks which are equivalent to conventional third and forth grade. But so far I am blank. Let me try and see what I can come up with. Ideas are welcome say for example, to teach division??

Related Articles,
About NIOS : Cant attend regular School, Try Open School
Another blogpost on Ananya: Different Perspective


Mridula said...

Most relevant for me as I teach!

brocasarea said...

good!..reminds me of my rd std maths teacher!!!.:)

Rashmi said...

Hey,the next time i visit bangalore,I definitely want to visit Ananya

Badhri said...

Am sure you would have come across this for multiplication

Also check this out of division.

There is a book called Trachtenberg's speed system of mathematics. Its cheap and gives good ways for basic arithmetic caluclations. But it is a system of mathematics, so it needs some pactice and internalising. But it sure is fast.

Good luck.

Bryan said...

This is great, I think all teachers in every country can benefit from stories and advice such as this!

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Priya said...

Nice one.. i still remeber that meeting with Udhav sir and good you caught this here.

He and the school have a really long way to go! Good that you could go there and do your bit.

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Goli said...

@Mridula Thanks
@brocasarea :)
@rashmi Sure, we can all plan a visit there sometime.

@badhri Thanks for the link. I will go through them surely.

@bryan Thanks.

@richa Hi richa thanks.

@priya: Haan this blog post was born out of that meeting. There are lot more stories to share still.

@ray: Thanks