One three things I hate about Math

A newly suggested counting method is creating chaos and comedy

Credit : इंडी जर्नल

Who has not feared and hated Mathematics in school days. Right from failing Mathematics tests, to getting punished by teachers and parents for the same, most have done it all. However, while all they apparently wish is to try and make Mathematics easy and comfortable for our children, it seems like the Balbharti has highly misread the signs of distress of the ‘Maths Haters Club’. Because as per the latest change in the Balbharti’s new curriculum for Class II, the fear of Maths could possibly be taken away by the way we read numbers in Marathi.

The last couple of days have been quite controversial for the staff members of the Maharashtra State Bureau of Textbook Production and Curriculum Research. In a bid to revolutionise the way the numbers are read and pronounced in Marathi, the Balbharti has called for the wrath of parents, teachers and educationists in the state. The reason? The children of Class II will now be taught to read the numbers above 20 in apparently a much ‘simpler’ way.

While we all grew up reading 35 as ‘पस्तीस’ (पैंतीस), the new generation of millenials, who are taking their primary education might choose to read it as ‘तीस पाच’. While the whole exercise, according to Balbharti officials, is a part of the attempt to make learning easy and comfortable for the children, from all different parts of Maharashtra, and all different social strata, the educationists are criticising it for undermining the grasping power of the children.

The old counting system, as the Balbharti officials call it now, the way everyone has been learning to read and write Marathi numbers for ages, is still present in the books. “The books will teach both the methods of reading the numbers. The ‘read as you write’ method has been introduced for the children as another option. Those who find it comfortable can use it, those who want to stick to the old one can do so. We are not replacing the old method, but just adding a new one,” said an agitated Mangala Narlikar, who is the chairperson of the Mathematics Committee of the Textbook Bureau.

“However, are these children, who are hardly seven-eight years old, capable of making this choice?” questioned a primary teacher at a school in a small village in Buldhana district.

She added, “When we teach them that 35 is read as ‘पस्तीस’, they repeat after us, and learn that, quite easily. So now, are we to tell them, that if they wish, they could as well say ‘तीस पाच’? And how would that work out for a bunch of seven-year-olds, who need to be reminded to go to the washroom after each couple of hours by their teachers?”

One of the objectives behind this new introduction by the Balbharti has been to make Maths easy so that the children can love it, and not fear it. It has been observed by the teachers that the children are not really afraid of Mathematics till Class IV or V.

“Numbers are taught to the children since they have entered the school in kindergarten. For them, reading numbers is probably the least difficult thing about Mathematics. When do they actually start fearing and hating Maths? After Class V and VI, when the Maths syllabus moves past basics, and starts becoming complex. Changing how we read numbers is not going to take away the fear of Maths, but employing the right methods and teachers to teach Maths will do the job,” the teacher asserted.

However, even if these children grow up pronouncing 99 as ‘नव्वद नऊ’, the whole world will continue to call it ‘नव्यान्नव’ (निन्न्यान्वे). How are these children going to cope with the world then?

While the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), the National Achievement Survey and similar have pointed out at the need to make changes in the way we teach our children at primary level, merely changing the method of reading is not going to bring improvement. It will only be a matter of ridicule and anger, as it has already been across Maharashtra, with several memes, jokes and angry Facebook posts being shared.

While Maharashtra’s education department has been notorious for bringing in sudden changes, and then withdrawing those after public opposition, the new change in the syllabus seems to be soon making it to the list of unfulfilled policy changes in the state’s education sector.