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Tamil Nadu - Coimbatore Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

He removes the fear of maths


After teaching for several years in a Sainik school, he became principal at the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and served in Sarni (Madhya Pradesh), Bhubaneshwar, Bangalore and Tirupathi.

Retiring as the Education Officer of the Sangathan in Bangalore region, he began conducting training programmes for schoolteachers and served as resource person for several workshops on mathematics. With his extensive knowledge of Indian contribution to mathematics, he delivered lectures on Vedic Mathematics all over the country. On a visit to Coimbatore to conduct a mathematics workshop for teachers of schools run by the ELGI Group, Venkatesha Murthy, Dean (Mathematics), iACT, Bangalore, spoke to A. A. Michael Raj on teaching and learning the subject.

WHEN STUDENTS feel they have discovered a concept by themselves instead of being made to memorise it, they remember easily what they have learnt in class. "If it is difficult to keep in mind the basic rules, students need to be given examples. For instance, profit is plus and loss is minus. The opposite of loss is profit. When students feel they have arrived at the concept on their own, they find satisfaction in learning which they will not have if asked to mug up the rule," Murthy said.

Instead of asking students to learn the multiplication table by-heart, it would be better to demonstrate that multiplication was nothing more complicated that the repeated addition of integers. Using colours - such as pink for plus and black for minus - would aid the understanding of basic operations.

"When allowed to draw from their own experience, they will feel that they have found out the rule, whether it is adding two unlike numbers or changing the sign," he said, explaining the "activity method of learning".

Another way to interest students in the subject was to inspire them with biographies of great mathematicians such as Ramanujam. "They will learn that even great people have committed mistakes and that it is not wrong to make mistakes."

Beating children who erred would only make them averse to the subject. "They will remember the beating but not the multiplication table they are learning. All stigma and mental blocks must be removed," he said. "Those who are good at maths are those for whom rational thinking is uppermost. Mathematics is the core of science. Ancient astronomers used and developed it and physics books are full of it," Murthy observed.

Students should learn to do simple calculations mentally and use a scientific calculator to find answers to complicated problems. In cases where students could not afford the devices, schools could provide calculators and give training. Difficulties arose only when students did not see the relationship among the various elements in the problem.

"Maths teachers should be like ladders. They should show the path and provide motivation," he noted. When the basic elements were clear, learners could process new knowledge on their own. Charts, models and low cost learning materials could do much to help know the subject.

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