Teach For Nepal

Localizing Mathematics

After Summer vacation, I came to school and started to teach Algebra in Class 8. As I was going through I realized that students haven’t understood the knowledge on rearranging like and unlike terms. First day, I just gave them, what my teacher did. On that day, I found that most of the girls and few boys were shifting the numbers to their respective like terms but they were leaving the signs which were in front of those terms.

For instance, to solve this expression 2a+3b-a-2b. First, we need to arrange the like terms by 2a-a+3b-2band lastly it gives a+b. Instead, they were doing2a+a-3b-2b which give the wrong answer of 3a-5b.

I reinforced them that whenever you are moving the terms to its respective like term they have to always move with sign which is essential and important concept to get the right solution. But, still the problem was there. Low-achieving children’s were not progressing at all except the few high –performing children.  I was seeking a diverse perspective to guide the misconception of rearranging the Like and unlike terms which needed to be resolved as soon as possible. Otherwise, they might be struggling as I move forward toward the curriculum.

“How am I going to relate or make a connection with their daily life?” was the question left and unanswered after School. Nothing was enlightened and new method was just not popping out of my head. I was self-obsessed with that question and checked my reference book.  With lot of time spending to find a response to my query -frustration was flowing parallel to my blood in my vessel and I was upset at the same.

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Next day, before entering class I felt the gnawing nervousness –also- I failed to parse my trepidation into patterned hope. I paused and inhaled fresh Oxygen which was incarnated with steady wind deep down from the diaphragm and exhaled worries with Carbon-dioxide. In the moment, I was at ease and my Dopamine hormone suppressed the Cortisol hormone and I swallowed hard and mumbled myself,” This shall pass away.” I strengthen myself with positive energy and refilled my nerves with hope.

Then, I entered the classroom with welcoming greet and I acknowledged saying, “Thank you!” With a frown expression I pushed my head back to an overwhelming excitement displaywhich gave me the indication that they were expecting some bustle. “Height of disappointment “I murmured with chuckle face and blinking eyes.  Then, out of the blues an image of kids carrying water just flashed voluntarily and departed unexpectedly. Surprisingly, I detected a correspondence between the misconception and their everyday life.

I wrote an expression on the board and then questioned,” Don’t the numbers look like human beings or us standing in a queue? Or imagine you are standing in a line to fetch the water in your vessel?”

And, one student said ,” Sir, there is no water source in front of that expression to align my saying .”

“OK, let me make it real.” I retorted with a friendly smile.

Then I rushed to the board and drew a water tap in front of the expression.

“Does it make any sense?” With an intention to make the class more curious with involvement, I again inquired.

Immediately, Shanti Jimba with an attempt to poke fun reacted, “Sir, if the numbers are us then those signs looks like our Gagri(गाग्री).” Along with her all class giggled and I realized she forwarded an outstandingly localized concept which would help me in coming days to teach algebra in coming days.

Additionally, I asked ,”If you are willing to come one step ahead of the queue to fetch the water quickly than others, would you take your Gagri with you or you will leave it behind.”

“We will take our Gagri.”A familiar response was resonated in the room.

“Exactly!” I exclaimed.

Subsequently, I urged to connect that expression in board with people in queue and solved it naming the sign as Gagri!   Afterwards, I gave them the question to assess their learning and every single child had mastered that concept.  I was over the moon after the class ended and every step was cherishing my achievement. I got a new insight towards algebra.

This particular way of relating algebra with their daily life proved to be a more convenient way to teach algebra in lower grades. Now we don’t call positive sign or negative sign instead we say positive Gagri or negative Gagri.

Natalie Goldberg proverb -Creativity exists in the present moment. You can’t find it anywhere else- prod me on the way to my residential room and prolonged after school.


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