Mathematics is all around us, whether we see it or not. Mathematics is the gear and machinery which drives things we can see, feel, and touch, and things we can’t.
We got a very good perspective on how to get command in Mathematics in our last article. While doing this, we have also been exploring how we can go one level up and make Mathematics a part of everything we do, without putting any extra effort.
In the fifth and final part of NumberNagar® Dialogue Series, I speak to Mini about how she has made Mathematics a way of her life, and how we can do that too. Mini is a Mathematics facilitator in NumberNagar® and is focused on making learning Mathematics fun for children.
Dialogue with Mini
Nishant: “Please tell me something about yourself and your role in NumberNagar®.”
Mini: “Let me introduce myself as a learner and a teacher. I have been involved in teaching since my graduation – one to one sessions and small groups. After my graduation in Mathematics and post-graduation in Computer applications, I taught both subjects initially for a few years, and gradually shifted focus on Maths alone. Here at NumberNagar®, I teach Maths, and I am part of the team contributing to the development of the Maths Content.”
Nishant: “What are your areas of interest?”
Mini: “To talk about my areas of interest, music is love – both listening and singing. I still hope to learn a musical instrument. Reading is another area of interest. Travel, sketch, craftwork, gardening are other things I enjoy doing as time permits. And to add, I love teaching my subject.”
Nishant: “That’s amazing. You have a multi-faceted personality. When did you know that Mathematics is something you are going to be learning and teaching for the rest of your life?”
Mini: “There wasn’t any defining moment as such. But looking back, when we were children – a noisy bunch of 4, during our summer vacations our dad used to throw us puzzles and we solved those together. I used to spend nights on the terrace gazing at the stars in wonder, discussing space, Science, History and what not. His collection of books and the knowledge he imparted developed in me the curiosity and interest, which I now believe has been a major factor in me developing my reading habits and influencing my choice of subjects for study later on. However, there wasn’t any particular subject that stood out to me as a favorite during those days. But while in high school, my dad took the time to sit with me for certain portions in Maths, which is a vivid memory and how he made it appear very simple through his explanation. Later he introduced me to a teacher – Miss Margaret. She helped me become more confident in doing Maths with her simplified and patient teaching.
I must say, all these experiences became the influencers. Parent participation in those formative years is an encouragement beyond our understanding as a child and he/she will reap the benefits throughout.”
Nishant: “Very interesting. You also mentioned a very important point that one of the reasons you love Mathematics is due to your parent’s participation.”
Nishant: “Have you ever used Mathematics to solve any real-life problems? If so, can you give us a few examples?”
Mini: “Everything that we see around us has some form of Mathematics ingrained in it. I especially like this quote:
Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware that it is counting. -–Leibniz.
So, there it is, and it’s a good start – Music has Maths.
Let me think of a few simple examples where we use the fundamentals of Maths in our daily life that most of us can relate to:
- Cooking a meal for a certain number of people – shopping for the ingredients, paying for it, chopping vegetables, the time consumed, and so on.
- Or planning a vacation with family or friends – If planned well by comparing transport fares, travel, and food-accommodation costs and choosing the right ones, and by maintaining the schedule – the calendar dates and time-zones, the weight of luggage and so on, much hassle can be avoided later.
- Or Understanding our spending habits – Income, expense, where do I spend more on.
- Say, even getting a dress stitched at a boutique – purchasing the cloth material keeping a certain design, length in mind based on the required measurements.
- At the Hypermarkets – Weighing and buying groceries, comparing prices for the best buy, at the billing counter, and so on.”
Nishant: “When you give such an example, we can’t help but wonder how much Mathematics is ingrained in our lives. Does it mean that Mathematics has become the way of your life?”
Mini: “Referring to the very few examples that I just mentioned which anyone can relate to, we do these activities and arrive at clear decisions without being aware that a particular subject is involved. It comes naturally in life by use. The more we use it; we get better at it. And it is universal. So yes, it is part of our daily life.”
Nishant: “Let’s hear about your experience working with young children. Can you please describe what makes these children not having fun while learning Mathematics?”
Mini: “I have been working with young children for quite a number of years now, and most of those years, teaching them Maths. Knowing that each child absorbs the subject differently, it is a beauty to watch the differences, enjoy it and work patiently at their levels of understanding, and gradually see the positive shift in their approach to the subject. This process involves loads of encouragement and active participation of not only the child but as well as his/her parents. I consider that the learning and growing pace of each child needs to be acknowledged and respected, just because of the fact that we are all different. There comes a stage when they start solving problems on their own. It is more like an accomplishment.
However, in a system where time becomes a constraint and the pressure of scoring marks in exams becomes the sole focus, even when the foundation bricks are still lying around and out of place, it breaks the flow and purpose. In this instance, it takes away the joy of learning. And sadly, in an attempt to place all of them in the same mould, their learning style and pace are disregarded. The frustration grows due to lack of conceptual clarity, they fear to ask doubts and there reaches a point when these little ones would conclude that Maths is boring or it is not their cup of tea. Also, the failure of understanding the connection of Maths to our daily life situations takes away from the fun. Again, when the subject remains abstract, it just adds to the list.
This is where we at NumberNagar step in and show that there is a better way to learn it right and learning Maths never has to be boring.”
Nishant: “Very beautifully put, Mini. You are one of our facilitators and adept at what you do. Can you please tell me what has been your experience while working with children in NumberNagar® so far?”
Mini: “It’s been about 2 academic years of enjoyable experience so far. I cherish the time I get to spend with each child, teaching Maths. Just as I mentioned earlier, the fact that each of them is different and they bring in their own personalities, it makes each session interesting. NumberNagar is learner-centric. So initially we assess the child’s learning style, which helps with the sessions. The children get to do activities for the concept we are on. NumberNagar has a Maths kit for each concept and NumberNagar elements that helps the child to explore and use it for different activities to gain clarity of the concept, and at their own pace.”
Nishant: “In the case of Mathematics, it is a well-known fact, the more we practice it, the better we become at it. What are your perspectives on it?”
Mini: “I can never impress enough on the importance of practicing the subject (just like any other subject we learn) and working out different types of Maths problems, in order for it to register in memory. Personally, in my overall experience, regardless of the grade the learners are in, I have found that I had to take them through the basics in many instances in the initial few sessions, and for some, we had to start from scratch. This situation could have been avoided to an extent, if there was sufficient practice during those years, provided they understood the concept, then.
It takes time and focus to be good at anything you learn. Think of any sports or driving or any other – say you get to experiment with it and you understand the rules. But would that make you a sportsperson or a good driver? Maths is no different. The right practice can help you be fluent in Maths. However, if giving in to the distractions around, this can become challenging for those who do.”
Nishant: “We all know that NumberNagar® uses Experiential Learning in the core of learning methodology. Can you please tell us how Experiential Learning is different than other conventional methods of learning?”
Mini: “Yes, that’s right.
About Experiential Learning, as the name suggests, it is a manner of absorbing the topic/ subject in such a way that allows the learner to experience what they are learning. It is more of a hands-on approach. Say, we don’t stop at lectures on cooking or reading about the flavor of each cooking ingredient. Rather one has to experience it, and … cook-the- dish! Say, swimming, singing or painting. Lectures and taking notes don’t help us get there. It’s the same for any subject we want to learn.
In a subject as abstract as Maths, when concepts are introduced, it makes more sense to the learner if they are able to see, to touch, to solve it by working it out with tangible objects to form the foundation or in other words, experience the concept themselves, for example by using manipulatives. This means the learner is an active participant here, with easier access to the teacher. This aspect seems to be missing in the conventional method of learning, where it is teacher-centric, mostly with a higher student-teacher ratio and therefore less student-teacher interaction. Which in turn widens the gap between those who “get it” and those who don’t, as the teacher has to move on. And most of those children find themselves lost in the process or goes where the crowd takes them. And there can be a good change if this is addressed.”
Nishant: “Let’s take a segue here to something equally important. Why is it important to learn and appreciate Mathematics?”
Mini: “Mathematics plays a role in intellectual development. It builds up critical and creative thinking and improves problem solving skills. It is a great idea to start Maths literacy at a very early age, as those young minds tend to absorb more. When Maths activities like re-arranging objects, comparing, sorting and similar are introduced at home say, by using their toys even before they learn to count, slowly moving to gain number- sense, and basic operations using similar activities, it develops their logical, analytical and reasoning skills, and can even develop focus. It will help them in the long run.
We know that Maths is seen in almost everything around us – from the depths of the ocean to the solar system and everything between. There is no denying that this vast subject has branched into many areas, touching human lives at every level towards development.
Quoting Galileo, “it’s a language in which God has written the universe”! Amazing, isn’t it? That sums it up, I guess!”
Nishant: “That’s poetic and yet feels so right. Is it possible for someone to not have Mathematics as part of the main job function, but still as a hobby or a continuous personal development tool?”
Mini: “Don’t we naturally tend to pursue what we love the most without any external pressure? We will find a way to, if not we will make a way. So I feel that those with a love for Maths would enjoy connecting themselves with it in some manner. “Every person has limitless room for growth”, as Maslow puts it and we all agree to that. It is up to the person choosing what to do with the opportunities.
Say for example Leonardo da Vinci is primarily known as a painter and a sculptor but wasn’t he a mathematician too?
I’m fascinated by MC Escher’s art. He is not a mathematician, but an artist using Mathematics.
Consider another hobby, say photography. Mathematical concepts are used for aesthetically pleasing images. Art and Maths cannot be separated. We can say that Maths is interwoven into all disciplines.
Now, wherever data and logic exists, Maths has a role. We know that any profession connected to IT and Engineering has Maths embedded in it. Also, it’s easy to figure out that Statisticians, Economists, Physicists, Astronomers, Accountants, Research analysts … have Maths in the core of their function. How about Geneticists, Geographists (/ers), Marine Biologists, Medical Professionals, Neuroscientists, Geologists? They do too! So one doesn’t have to have a main job function of Maths, but is still intertwined with it directly or indirectly.”
Nishant: “Thank you, Mini, for bring out many important points so beautifully. These insights will certainly help children as well as grown-ups alike. How do we reach to you if we have any questions?”
Mini: “Thank you, Nishant. You can always reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +91-63612 02395.”
NumberNagar® provides a unique environment to learn Mathematics in a fun way. NumberNagar®’s approach teaches children to make Mathematics a way of their life and use and appreciate Mathematics even if it is not part of their regular job functions.
Mini spoke about how Experiential Learning plays a vital role to understand and appreciate an abstract subject like Mathematics. As per her, it is a hands-on approach to absorbing the topic/subject in such a way that allows the learner to experience what they are learning.
What do you think? Let us know by adding a comment below and connecting with us using the form below.
I’d recommend you to also read the following articles we published before and are relevant to this important discussion:
- NumberNagar® Dialogue Series – On Getting Command in Mathematics
- Chai pe charcha – Mathematics for amusement
- Discovering Mathematics all around you
- Doodle your way into Maths
- The Curious Case of the Mathematics behind the Illusions
- The Fascinating Mathematics behind Holograms
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