Go back to the time when you were a third grader or at a similar level. How did you know the multiples of first ten whole numbers? If you studied in a private school in Nepal like I did, you probably were made to mug the multiples. THREE ONES ARE THREE. FIVE NINES ARE FORTY FIVE. I did not clearly know what the sentence structure meant. If you ever saw a cross between 5 and 9, you had to be able to say 45 without thinking. That’s how I learned my multiples. It took a lot of time to learn the multiples, even more than most of my class mates, even though I was a “good” student in Mathematics.
There are three apples in a basket. There are two apples in another basket. If we put all these apples in a basket, there will be five apples. That was addition. I think I understood addition easily then. Now, multiplication was tougher and division seemed way beyond my level.
Now, instead of two baskets of apples with two and three apples respectively, say, I had three basket of apples with five apples each. If we put all these apples in a huge basket, there would be fifteen apples. The major missing piece in my learning mathematics, then, was that I was never told multiplication was another form of addition – of similar subjects. I wish my teacher made me understand this then. I always thought multiples were separate functions with indecipherable working algorithms, and divisions were invented by the devil to punish kids who can’t rote-learn what their teachers tell them to!
Few months ago, a primary level mathematics challenge from Singapore had the worldwide social media in its grasp for more than a whole week. Did you find out when Cheryl’s birthday is? By yourself? There may be some history to Asians being good at Mathematics.
Abacus, a tool used to learn Mathematics was invented in China around 500 BC. Abacus is a frame with parallel bars placed inside. There are beads that can move axially on the outer side of the inner bars. A common abacus would have 10 beads in each bar. The lowermost bar is valued at ones place of a decimal number system, then tens, hundreds, thousands, and so on as you move towards the other end.
Use abacus more often for all levels of problems, and pretty soon you will do it faster than many people use calculators. While using the abacus, you also have a better grasp of how decimal number system works, as an abacus is designed exactly how decimal numeric system is designed. After a certain age, children can leave the abacus and do the calculations of same complexity with the same speed as though they are using their abacus. Frequent use becomes muscle memory, and later reflexive. This is how learning anything happens in our brains. We don’t want our children to learn and merely memorize words, we want our children to understand the concepts crystal clear. That will what will make them makers of Nepal’s future!
So, why is the case for creative learning brought up now? Why after earthquake? Many school are destroyed, and are in the process of rebuilding. Building a school does not only mean building class rooms and assembling desks and benches. Designing learning process and learning toolkits is also a part of school building. Having a chance to rebuild is a chance to build better, fix faults of previous systems. There is purpose, now more than ever. We are gaining momentum, now more than ever! This is not only a chance to make more children pass SLC, but a chance to make the future makers of Nepal learn better.