Creative learning for children as a part of rehabilitation

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.


Thank you for the article, Kshitiz … the examples are beautiful :slight_smile: I guess everyone will understand afterwards what’s wrong with education when children have to “learn” something by memorizing it.

I learned briefly how to use the abacus, but we never used it as an educational tool (very interesting, did not know about this use). Instead, learning to calculate stuff in my head, including transformation strategies like 1213 = 10 * 13 + 213 = 130 + 26 = 156, was a completely unstructured process. I mostly had to figure it out by myself back then …

But then again, from a certain age on, teaching how to figure out something by yourself is the only thing a child needs to be taught. With that skill, they’ll find their way, and also solutions for challenges in their society.

That’s why I like the Karkhana’s “hackerspace type” approach to education a lot. That new model for education is also pioneered in other parts of the world, like by Educate-Me in Cairo, Egypt. It’s an after-school hackerspace for children. Fellow Edgeryder @asmaa_kamel works there and presented their approach in detail in her post on Edgeryders a year ago. Asmaa, maybe you have some new experiences to share with us about how to pioneer better education (this time in Nepal)?

(Oh and for those who missed it, here’s Cheryl’s Birthday math riddle mentioned in the post above. It’s pretty good :slight_smile:

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Bad mathematics pedagogy the source of a lot of pain

Dear Kshitiz, welcome to the community and thank you so for taking the time to articulate and share your thoughts.

This week I had a long conversation with a good friend. I asked why they had never studied engineering when it is very clear they are pretty much a perfect fit for the work (and cannot seem to stop themselves building things anyway). Guess what? Having had their self confidence crushed when they were at school: they were made to feel stupid because they were not good at the mindnumbingly dull exercises we were subjected to collectively bundled under “math class”.

Many people have thought about this a lot, about why this subject makes so many people feel so bad about their capabilities at a young age.  And so where does it start to go wrong? If you haven’t already read A Mathematician’s Lament by Paul Lockhart, I really recommend including it in any educational reformers must-read list :slight_smile:

It is a lovely short book on the pedagogics and philosophy of mathematics. You can read the essay which prefigured it here.

Can relate to what you have written

We have already discussed quite at length about the write-up but I am happy you decided to post it :slight_smile: I just wanted to share something that I wrote few months ago regarding the same topic: HERE.

@kshitizkhanal7 @Matthias you have have heard of the news of students committing suicide after the SLC results were out a day or two ago. The sad reality is that our education system (and here I generalize) does not seem to care about its students. The education system has not only failed to provide a creative learning space but has also perpetuated this notion that failure equals to not deserving to live!

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I came across this article in Guardian today - and this seems to be a very good recipe to be multiplied in other places. The best part is the motivation of the Finnish government decades ago to move towards establishing teaching as highly-skilled and well-paid job: they knew they are far behind other thriving economies, as a rural country, and they knew that educating on the highest possible level every single kid will create essential assets to become what Finland is now. Known for its innovative and progressive society.

I have observed a couple of extreme flaws and issues in the educational system in Nepal. You know of them even better - terrible conditions in which children are learning, poorly paid and ill-prepared teachers, and this incredible competition between public and private sector, which only strengthens social divisions and creates revenue that goes straight to the pockets of rich foreigners. Lack of a curriculum is yet another one.

Now, as the country will be soon going through major changes in terms of political situation (if we are to believe the promises of the 4 major parties - and if we take into account strange but interesting reasons for their fast-track constitution procedure, it seems to be really happening), is there a group of people who could organise and influence the shape of educational system? Are teachers unionized, or - if not - mobilised and aware enough to take a lead? Do you see it happening anytime soon?

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Another example from Egypt

… is called Natham. A description is here:

In my own country, Italy, there is an experience very similar to Natham called OilProject. It was founded by my friend Marco when he was only 15! Now they have, I think, 200,000 students. Or is it 2 million? I never remember sad