The debate on the economy has once again taken centre stage with the publication of the Q1 GDP growth rate for Q1 FY 2020. Questions are being raised whether India is entering a deep phase of recession and the fear that this may stoke higher unemployment rates (which is already at an elevated level). India’s population and the so-called demographic dividend or burden debate is once again back on the talking head forums.
Most surveys on employability of graduates (Engineering, MBA) tend to show a poor score for the employability of these graduates. Both these qualifications presume a certain degree of competence in numeric ability and communication (verbal and written). The low scores are indicative of the significant challenges that we confront because of the poor quality of education right from school through college.
As the old saying goes, catch them young, a lot of this has to do with our teaching at the school level. In particular, the way maths is taught (important while evaluating analytical competence). Most school students I have interacted with confess that they approach maths with trepidation, higher the class, greater is their nervousness of performing poorly. Their senses have been numbed by a wide variety of formulaes and theorems, which they are encouraged to commit to memory by teachers. Most teachers lay emphasis on accuracy and rote learning rather than laying emphasis on the conceptual aspects of the subject.
The use of gamification and everyday problem statements to make the concepts clear can make the learning process more enjoyable. It also helps in bridging the theory to application divide. In this context, the two books under review are useful to make maths more interesting for young students.
Being a Mathematician by Gayatri Kalra Sehgal is a book where the author through a wide variety of activities brings out key mathematics concepts whether it is measurement concepts, or tracking of time, addition or multiplication. It will be useful to children in the primary school, who are being introduced to the basic mathematical concepts. In particular, parents/teachers will find the introduction to the book very useful to help them make the early learning of maths for their kids/students both interesting and rewarding.
The second book under review is Math Problems with Dinosaurs, by Rakesh Khanna, aimed at mid to senior school students, and introduces a number of mathetical concepts using problems around dinosaurs. As the author states, it is not a regular math text-book. The concepts are nicely brought out by creating a wide variety of situations in which the readers have to exercise their mind as to which mathematical concept is most appropriate.
Both books are written in simple style and it is really the content and the activities that make them good reference material for young students.
Bharat Kidambi is a Bangalore based entrepreneur.