Specially designed, colorful and remedial mathematics learning kits (based on the philosophy of ‘Activity based learning’) help children understand basic mathematical concepts through real-life experiments. To fight rote learning deeply entrenched in the education system, IDEK has created these kits from low-cost and durable material. 7,520 math kits are now being used by 3,00,000 children in 647 government primary schools across Karnataka by Akshara Foundation as part of their Akshara Ganitha Program.
Only 25.6% of children in a class V could solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem – ASER (2013) Mathematics is largely considered as a "dreaded subject”. IDEK's approach is based on sequential thinking strategies - Concrete, Representational and Abstract levels. A wide range of Teaching & Learning Methods (TLM) in the kit helps in performing the concrete operations, which is represented in square ruled books for visual memory during representational level. This is followed by solving wide range of mathematical problems in the form of puzzles, games and daily life problems for abstract understanding of the mathematical concepts. Teachers are oriented on the pedagogic principles of the TLMs and trained on methodologies of using the same.
The kit, distributed to children of classes 1 to 7, contains sturdy and attractive concrete TLMs which facilitates the abstract understanding of the math concepts covered in government syllabus. The kit consists of brightly coloured counters, beads, dice, plastic currency, clocks, an abacus and a pretty weighing scale. Visual learning promotes conceptual understanding. For example: there is a set of tiny plastic cubes and each represents one unit and weigh exactly 1 gram; going up the scale, these same cubes are joined together to form a set of ten cubes; then a flat piece with a 100, and then a large cube with a 1000. These help children understand the concept of base-10 numbering.
Following the principles of constructivism, a child creates her own knowledge by engaging with the concrete teaching learning materials in the kit while the teacher facilitates the process. The methodology introduces concepts in a graded manner focussing on the broader vision of mathematics. The focus is on the activity based experiential learning that enhances child’s ability to think mathematically, see patterns and structures and handle abstractions rather than rote memorisation or mastering procedures. Using material like EVA (a foam-like substance), various geometric shapes such as a set with numbered units-tens-hundred-thousands, and as a set of fractions have been created. These can be lightly wetted with water and made to stick on a black or white-board, which makes it easy for teachers to stick them on to the board, move them around to demonstrate place values in multiple-digit numbers, or show how fractions really work. The kits are low-cost, durable and attractive. From a design point of view, the aids are tactile and manipulative - something the students would want to hold and touch and do things with.
The math kit is a riot of colors and textures which not just entices kids towards learning but also encourages teachers to learn and teach in the most engaging manner.
The kit is low-cost, has easy adaptability and is a good fit for primary school children in both rural and urban contexts.