The World Doesn’t Need Another Math Textbook

I know this statement is shocking. Some of you may feel that I have announced the end of the civilization as we know it. How in the world will people learn math without the latest and greatest math textbook. The answer is simple. The same way people have always learned math prior to the modern education system, by doing math as they go about their everyday lives. You may ask “Is that possible?” “Would it work?” I believe so. It’s the reason I made this statement when I was asked if my new book, “Math is Child’s Play” was going to be a Math Textbook. But in all fairness, let’s look at both sides, school math versus everyday math.

First let’s look at school math. I have been studying of late the topic of Math Anxiety. Increasing number of people profess to hate math, to be ‘no good at math,’ to be anxious about doing basic math. These same people were taught math in our public schools. When did this situation of math anxiety start? Who knows for sure? But what’s significant is that it’s increasing, not decreasing. It’s increasing despite the modern education system, despite New Math and the latest teaching methods, despite all the money and energy that has been put towards the problem. Just for the record, I found a book “Mathematics; A Human Endeavor” by Harold R. Jacobs copyrighted in 1970 which in its preface the author mentions the failure of New Math in the schools. A book from 1964, titled “Mathematics for Elementary Teachers” by Ralph Crouch and George Baldwin which was written to teach math to elementary teacher who found themselves expected to teach math although they had no training in math.

Marilyn Burns, a well known math expert, has been addresses math anxiety since 1970 with her first book, “I Hate Mathematics” right through to her more current book, “Math; Facing an American Phobia” 1998. The latter book speaks to math anxiety as a growing phenomenon. And more recently “Math for the Anxious” by Rosanne Proga, copyrighted 2005 also is very clear about math anxiety and its causes. Of course, all this math anxiety is good; at least it is for the math textbook industry. Math anxiety sells math textbooks. Parents are concerned that their children learn math better than they did. Teachers are calling for a better way to teach math. This is great news for the math textbook companies. For you and me, this is bad news.

So let’s look at the other side. Is it possible for people to learn math in everyday life; running their business or household, doing projects, etc.? Is this possible? I believe it is and it is already happening without anyone being aware of it. My daughter professed to hate math, yet she is doing math everyday on Neopets. When I asked her about it, she said that it wasn’t real math. So what kind of math was it? I think she meant that it wasn’t ‘school math.’ I met an airline pilot who went into great details about the calculations she did in her head in order to fly the plane. Later she professed that she hated math in school. She wasn’t ‘good at it.’ She wasn’t even capable of balancing her own checkbook. When I pointed out that the calculation she did to fly the plane was math, she was adamant that it wasn’t because she wasn’t any good at math in school. She said “It’s just a formula that I plug numbers into.” Marilyn Burn relates a similar story about an interior decorator who could price out the cost for a complete room, but also felt that she wasn’t any good at math. These are people who couldn’t do ‘school math’ but are doing the math that their everyday lives demand of them. They probably learned this math on the job; hence they don’t relate it to school math.

Math is best learned in the real world, with real life situations. It may start with counting out the cookies your mother gives you. Later you start comparing the number you got with the number your brother got. You quickly learn to calculate the he got ‘how many’ more than you did, so that your complaint can be accurate. Next, you are watching Mom slice up the pie or cake. You quickly calculate how many pieces each person can have, that is until Mom steps in and tells you how many you can really have. Then you calculate how many you can have tomorrow with all those guests gone. This is a simple real life scenario, but how many math concepts did I cover here. These skills grow with your children. How many of you have watched your older children go through their Halloween candy. My child sorts and counts to evaluate how she did. Halloween is also a great time for teaching about taxes. Parents need to take their share of the sweet earnings, and not just of the candy the child doesn’t like. Remember, Uncle Sam takes his cut off the top before you ever see a dime.

Playing is a great way to learn math. I like miniature golf and billiards for learning about angles and force. Of course this may sound like Physics, Newton’s Law of Relativity. And it is, but there is also no better way to learn geometry and algebra than with a practical application. What could be more practical than learning as you play? Wow, here’s another real life example for learning math. I like playing games. You name it; board games, card games, strategy games. If it challenges me and tests my intellect and problem solving capabilities, I like it. Games like Nim, checkers, chess, mancala, Stratego, Battleship, Risk, etc. help develop logic sequences and strategy. Games like Uno, Skip-bo, Set, Rummikub helps children develop their ability to see patterns. Games like cribbage, gin rummy, Scrabble actually help children practice addition and multiplication.

But enough with the games, let’s talk some serious stuff. If you want to learn math, do a project like decorating a room. Do the whole works from calculating the paint or wallpaper, to calculating the material and sewing the drapes, to ordering and positioning the furniture. Design a new cabinet layout for your kitchen, including calculating cabinet dimensions, appliance positioning and project costs. Try building something like a drop desk or a play ground swing set, or a go-cart. How about doing a baking or sewing/quilting project? Do all the preparations for a dinner party, including the planning, shopping, seating arrangement, cooking, etc. Try paper trading some stock and track them for a year. Start an eBay business. Wow! Wouldn’t that be something, having your child’s math project turn into a home-based business that pays for your child’s college education? It’s possible and it’s real life.

When it comes to learning math, everyday life has plenty of opportunities and the learning is natural, not forced. On the other hand, the math anxiety problem is rooted in our modern education system. The problem lies with having non-math experts teaching math as if they were experts. The problem lies with having math textbooks that present math in an artificial and rigid manner. As much as I liked Marilyn Burns book, “Math; Facing an American Phobia,” I think she missed the correct conclusion of the situation. Ms. Burns is still trying to ‘fix’ the system. It is obvious to me that it is time to throw the system out and go back to learning math in everyday life. Hence I stand by my statement “The Last Thing the World Needs Is Another Math Textbook.”

Ancient Indian Education and Ethics – Its Relevance Today

We are here to critically understand the relevance of Ancient Indian education system in the modern time. Has the modern education ethos has helped to understand the Indian society. Do we want to become original thinkers again or remain in the present system which breeds mediocrity? India need to think carefully how much foreign system of education has helped her. Time has come to go back to high level of education which will produce thinkers.

Basis of Indian education has been learning and understanding. It became just memorizing after countless invasions. India was the most prosperous nation in the world in the ancient times. It believed in exploitation of the natural resources just that much which was needed. Excessive exploitation of natural resources was not done nor was it encouraged. In India people worship nature: plants, wind, fire, water, sun and so on. This proves the respect it gave to all the living plants and animals on the Earth. In Hindu religion it is said that over exploitation of the sea, should be avoided and that is known as “samudramanthan.” Giving education was considered as noble job, a solemn duty of the teacher and he should not expect remuneration from the students. A teacher used to be dedicated and did take teaching as a mission.

Academics also helped to reform the societies. We could recall the contribution made by the great economics teacher of Takshashila and Nalanda Universities; Chankaya who realized that for economic development in the region it was necessary to make an undivided nation: India. He helped Chandragupta to establish the Mauryan Empire which ruled the entire subcontinent and beyond. This empire in recent time gave the system that gave us the ethical standards which Indians value even now. The education standards were high and people came from far lands to study all streams of subjects here in India. Indians also worship goddess of education “Saraswati.” Even today it is celebrated with great fanfare.

Hindus do have a function where the child is introduced to learning and that is the culture of India. Indian society is based on education. People in education are given the highest position in society called Brahmins. In ancient times one had to work very hard to become a Brahmin. In those days it was not by birth. One had to take that profession then only he could become a Brahmin. The Brahmin could not take money to give education. Education in ancient India was free to all. The kingdom would fund education. India is a country which has low literacy but high education. People know about life, nature, plants, and its importance and so on.

Indian education system was based on the principle of total development; mind and emotions. Indian system paid great emphasis to development of ethical sole and therefore, introduced brahmacharya system. During this period a student is supposed to learn only. Indian system gave emphasis to learning through practice. It was indeed based on religious practices and religious acts. One must appreciate that religion in those days was just a way of life hence, no conflict with education. One had to follow a strict way of life which one has to still follow. Athavaveda an ancient book talks in detail the education part; the system and methods to be followed.

It however, had some defects. Education was restricted to those who deserve and was not available to all. Second it was Guru (teacher) centric i.e. for every thing one had to depend on the guru and his knowledge was considered perfect. Buddhism democratized the education by allowing all to study. This helped to spread education and institutionalise education by forming Universities. Buddhism did not deviate from Hindu system of imparting education but made it broad-based. Here again educators and students had to be religious people and had to follow a strict rules. Even here it was not fully devoid of old Guru System. Even Buddha said “Buddham saranam gachchami” (Come to Buddha to get enlightenment). Mind you, in ancient times the great saints did research on their own and developed body of knowledge which was in contrast to what Buddha said. However, he challenged the system of concentration of knowledge in few hand. This might have diluted the quality of knowledge but this improved the understanding of the people in general in India.

This also developed a bond among people of India which is keeping this country together. This is the secret of unity in diversity of India. A diverse country became one population having same principle of life that is achieving mokshya (eternal bliss).

Indians always paid great importance to education which would improve the ethical standard of the population. Resilience of ancient Indian education system was proved again and again. Since the early stages of foreign invasion India lost all its material wealth but not the Indian ethos and superiority of our (Arian) culture and believes. This was possible because of the foundation of Indian education system. Others talk about Ethics but Indians practice through education.

Aims of the Indian System as I think were:

1. The direct aim was to make all students fit to become useful members of the society so that they could follow the duties of all other Ashrams of life faithfully.

2. The aim was to make firm and good character through moral values.

3. The Indian education system made a distinction between mere scholarship and total education.

4. The aim of the system was development of total personality.

5. Next was inculcation of civic and social duties. India in ancient time was a society mainly governed by social laws which gave us our strength. It is the only society where the social system of conducting business was so strong and independent that we survived in spite of foreign invasion and rule.

6. Indian education promoted social efficiency and happiness. We all know in our ancient books there are examples of people helping the society.

7. Ancient education system taught preservation of national heritage and culture hence we still have a culture different from all other societies. This still remains our strength and some day we will be able to re-establish our national pride. This has given us the unbroken continuity since the ancient times. It is the strength of our ancient education that we survive as a nation.

Then the question is where did we go wrong? Our education system got encased in a shell for it had to be protected from foreign influence. This violent massacre of our culture by foreign invaders made us extremely introvert. The openness of our society was lost and formal education became the domain of few. This destroyed the ability of our academia to expand knowledge. The burning of our established centers of education made people scared. The mass lost the desire to learn because they did not value home-grown knowledge. People drifted from formal learning process and this gave way to all sorts of raw practices in our society. Indian society lost the basic ability to acquire and take advantage of knowledge. The body of knowledge became foreign which was a rare commodity only the rich could afford. The British rule took advantage of this void and introduced a system to suit needs of the Empire. The system did not encourage beyond copying. This practice is still prevalent in Indian education system. It discourages boys from having their own independent opinion on a subject.

We stopped learning and all our ancient texts were being considered as part of religion. We should re-design our education system incorporating the main ethos of our time- tested old system with new knowledge. We must reintroduce the concept of self-control which has been there in our society. This may make our people to appreciate need for ethical standards. Yes, let us go back to the relationship that existed between education and society defined by our age-old tested system. The quality of some of the books written 2500 years ago or beyond is so high that people of today can not write. That was the level of our original research why and when we lost that ability is a matter of concern even now. We must revive that and rebuild the education system in India as we want it; the total development. Copying of the west has not helped and it shall not help in future this has to be recognized once for all. We believe in the Ethical values of the society and that can not be compromised at any cost. Society has lost thousands of years and let us not loses further time in search of right education for India.

Dr Aloke Chakravartty

Dean

School of Management

Brainware

00919230527596

The Role of Technology in Education

In the current age we live in, technology has become an important component. Every day there is some new gadget or software that makes lives easier and improves on the technology and software that already exists. Making lives easier is not, however, the only role technology plays in our lives.

Technology is playing an increasing role in education. As technology advances, it is used to benefit students of all ages in the learning process.

Technology used in the classroom helps students adsorb the material. For example, since some people are visual learners, projection screens linked to computers can allow students to see their notes instead of simply listening to a teacher deliver a lecture.

Software can be used to supplement class curriculum. The programs provide study questions, activities, and even tests and quizzes for a class that can help students continue learning outside the classroom.

Technology has also become part of many curriculums, even outside of computer and technology classes. Students use computers to create presentations and use the Internet to research topics for papers and essays.

Students also learn to use the technology available to them in computer and tech classes. This ensures that after graduation they will be able to use the technology in a work setting, which may put them ahead of someone who didn’t have access to a particular technology or software in their own school setting.

As technology advances, students have better access to educational opportunities like these. When something new and “better” is revealed, the “older” technology becomes more affordable, allowing it to be used in educational settings, even when schools are on a tight budget.

Technology has also advanced to help children even before they’ve started school. Educational video games and systems for young children helps them prepare for school and in some cases get a head start on their education.

There are people who may say children are “spoiled” by technology. Instead of being able to add a long column of numbers in their heads, for example, they turn to a calculator. Regardless of these arguments, technology is an important part of today’s society. By incorporating it into the classroom, students will be better equipped to transition from the classroom to the work place.

The Importance of Education

For most of the countries the age group between 15-25 years consists of an average of 16%. And this young group holds the role of development of a country. If the policy makers and stake holders can work hand in hand and execute the one key element in the most effective and poised way, then these youths can be the blessing of a country. And that key element is Education. If they fail in that, then it leads to the total disaster of the country’s social, political and economic aspects. There is nothing more dangerous than unemployed, uneducated or undereducated young people. The aims and objectives of education have transformed drastically through each generation. Education should never be something that is static. It should be able to cater the needs of the people according to the society they live in. This can be easily understood by differentiating traditional education system and modern education system. Education is not a privilege of a particular community or group of people. Today almost all countries have accepted the truth that it is the Civil right of a citizen to get education. But here comes the real question, does this right to education is implemented in real meaning. To make this happen and to make this worthwhile to the people, the education system of each of these countries has to ensure four aspects. Let us find out what these aspects are.

  • Extensiveness
  • Effectiveness
  • Equality
  • Employability

The policy makers and education stake holders should consider many factors while implementing the structure and purpose of education, particularly the demography of that particular country. They should be able to cater education to all citizens who fall in the bracket of that age group. Thus the educational system of a country should be extensive as per the demographic requirements. The kinder gardens, schools, Universities should be established in proportion to the population ratio. Not a single aspirant should be denied the right to education due to the lack of educational infrastructure. So, Extensiveness has become the name of the game. There comes equality, for centuries education was confined to only a particular community or some group of people. A large number of people were excluded from the opportunity to get the chance for education. There have been changes in that attitude after long struggle. But still it is a key factor – Equality for education. All citizens irrespective of any kind of social, economic and political barriers should have access to education that they deserve. We have to ensure that excluded groups are getting chances to get involved in the process of education. Or else it is the greatest failure of the entire nation known as global family. It is the responsibility of the country to ensure that, GER (Gross Enrollment Ratio) works equally proportional to the specific age group of that country. Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) or Gross Enrollment Index (GEI) is a statistical measure used in the education sector and by the UN in its Education Index to determine the number of students enrolled in school at several different grade levels (like elementary, middle school and high school), and use it to show the ratio of the number of students who live in that country to those who qualify for the particular grade level.

Even though most of the countries were much focused in key aspects like extensiveness and equality in education, there is one crucial thing that they have ever failed or never focused much – Effectiveness. The quality of the education they were imparting. The quality of education became secondary to the quantity of the options that were given to the students. If the education is without a purpose, then how it can meet the needs of the people, so there arises the question, why this education? This can lead us to large mass of educated but unemployed people. Where we are going to utilize them or how we are going to work this out. If the education of a country never caters to the needs of the economic needs of a country or the skills expected by companies or organizations, then all these efforts to enrich the educational system will be futile. Various educational thinkers have always questioned the accountability of the education that was provided. Most of the employers have expressed their concerns that the most of the graduates are unfit for the job. There are job opportunities, but there is lack of skilled employees for the particular position. So there arises the question, what we have to teach them or make them capable of. Here the only solution is, the skills of individuals should be identified, and they should be given the chance to excel in their trade. And also the policy makers have to take into consideration what the employers require, what skill sets they expect from their candidates. Unless these are taken into consideration, our educated group becomes worthless for themselves and for the world. This should never happen.

Meet the Goal of Education Through an Educational Tour

Educational tours are very important in a student’s life as they impart practical or visual experience to the wards and give them an opportunity to explore new things. Apart from that, they help in providing experiential learning to the students and transforms complex topics within the understanding levels of the students. Experiential or visual learning helps them in choosing the right career at the right age paving way for faster and sustainable development. Majority of the educational tours helps in the overall development of the students. These educational tours support the modern education philosophy of ‘learning while doing’.

This philosophy of learning while doing is completely against rote learning and promote self- learning coupled with fun and recreation. Realizing the benefits of experiential learning many schools are arranging education tours once in a year. Few national education boards and universities compel the management to arrange an educational tour once in every academic year. Realizing the importance of these tours numerous companies in the market are offering education tour packages at pocket-friendly prices. Many of these packages are customized in nature making them more viable for students of lower income levels. These packages mostly include all sorts of features that are needed to be included in an educational tour and can be customized further as per the requirements of the clients. The price for a customized tour plan can be decided after due consultation with the client.

Let’s look at the few pre-trip tasks of an educational tour in common and how to choose a right partner for your tour:

• Timing of the tour – Plan your tour dates well in advance to avoid any kind of last minute rush. Communicate the same to your organizer so, that they can arrange everything well and proper.

• Decide the destinations you would like to cover. This can be done effectively only if you are aware of the objective of the tour. Hence, it is always advised to share the objective of the tour to your organizer as this will help them in chalking out the best package for you.

• Decide the strength that is willing to join you. Communicate the number properly and well in advance in order to avoid any kind of mismatch at the end. Size of your group has a direct implication on the convenience of the trip.

• Communicate with the specific points that you would like to visit. This also tied to the objectives of the tour.

• Know about the places that you are going to visit as a part of the trip. This will help you in understanding the guide’s explanation about a particular spot well and would add up to your knowledge bank.

Finally, take an expert adviser’s opinion about the places you visit, timing and any other anticipated issues.