What’s in a name?

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


Despite the wide popularity of the Shakespeare quote regarding names, we associate specificity to names. Have you ever pondered on the stories behind names? Names of people, names of things, names of companies, names of brands – many of these have stories attached to them. Many times, these stories are interesting at the very least and enlightening at most.

Teachers at team NumberNagar® constantly are on the lookout for creative methods to engage students. We picked up one such classroom story from one of our senior teachers to share here. It is an old story, interesting and curious nonetheless. Read on and share your thoughts.

Problem solving by Out of the Box Thinking

A teacher entered into a classroom.  After the usual greetings of “Gooooooood Mooooooorniiiiiiiing, Sir”, the class settled into another class! This was a substitution class for the teacher, so he was not under any pressure to complete the syllabus.  So he thought “let me check the awareness of the class”.

He started with a simple question – “Do you know what is common among these three: Carbon, Nitrogen, and Photon?”.

Perhaps, you the reader have already gone back in memory to get the answers.  Some of you know, with a lot of practice, how to relate and connect.  So I will assume that you have got the answer.

Similarly, our teacher also got many answers,  but one of the answers proffered by a girl amused the teacher and that took the class through a round-about turn.  So what was the answer our student gave?

She started to speak but then lost her voice in the noise that ensued in the classroom.  She fell silent.  But our teacher had noticed her hesitation.  He made a mental note of it. He allowed all standard answers – among the same that are running in your mind – to go through after a certain debate.  Then, when the entire class had exhausted itself by arguing, he called upon this hesitant student to share her answer.

She hesitated but with a shy smile on her face said, “They are all products, Sir”.  Noticing the special attention she had received, her other friends shouted, “So what?”.  The teacher persisted and asked, “Is that so?”. She continued boldly, encouraged by the teacher’s support, “They are all products, i.e., they are the names of brands.  Carbon is the brand name of Maruti Suzuki’s Zen car.  Nitrogen is the brand name of a cycle manufactured by Hero and Photon is the brand name for the wireless internet connection service offered by the Tata Group”.

Learning by Evoking Curiosity

Now, the teacher was surprised at this out-of-the-box thinking.   Everyone started laughing at this crazy answer.  As I mentioned earlier, the teacher was only substituting and he did not have to teach in this period!  So he proposed to the class, “Why don’t we actually continue this as a game?”

Students saw this as an opportunity to play rather than learn.  They all said in one voice, “Yes, Sir!”  The teacher warned that it was not sufficient to just tell the name but they should also briefly explain the related science.

The teacher started by saying, “Let me start with an example, and you can add on to it.  There is a Visa Credit Card whose brand name is Electron.   Electron is a fundamental particle.  It is negatively charged and has a charge of 1.6 x 10-19 coulomb.  It has a mass of 9.1 X 10-31 kg.  According to Rutherford’s model of an atom, electrons rotate outside the nucleus in an atom.”

He then asked for volunteers to continue in this manner.   One boy said animatedly, “Sir, there is Bajaj – Pulsar.  Pulsar is a motorbike.  It comes in different sizes – 150 cc, 180 cc, 200 cc, and 220 cc”.  Everyone nodded.  The teacher smiled and said “Good! Very good!  Do you know what cc represents? It is the volume of the piston in any two-wheeler.  Now, what is the meaning of Pulsar?”. “Ok!  Pulsar is a rotating neutron star (typically with time periods of 1 millisecond)”, another student offered as an answer.

The bell rang and the teacher got ready to leave the class. The class enjoyed this game and said they would come prepared with more such lists in the next class.  The teacher nodded but wondered whether that would ever happen in the busy schedule of classes. He also pondered, “If every discussion in the staff room revolves around syllabus completion, we will never have this session again”.  “Did we learn anything new? Did it help the students’ learning? Or did they just have fun?” were his continuing thoughts as he made his way back to the staff room.

What applies to children, applies to grown-ups alike when it comes to learning by evoking curiosity

So, readers, there are two exercises for you.

First, what would you do in such a situation?  Would you support this teacher’s method?  Do you think that every classroom session should be conducted like this? Will this ‘play’ help students? Do you think the students learned anything?

Next, can you name other brands and/or products that might be of help to this special teacher?

(Clue: Look around – be curious).

What do you think? Let us know by adding a comment below and connecting with us using the form below.

Originally authored by Dr. Srivatsa S K and published in an older version of the blog in 2012.

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The editorial team at NumberNagar® collates and curates articles from various associates - teachers, parents, students, partners. This is an effort to provide a platform for anyone involved with NumberNagar® to share their views.

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