I ‘taught’ Intelligence (logical thinking and reasoning skills) to the classes Shantiniketan & Nalanda (the two sections in the current grade-8 in the school where I teach) last year. Since my classes were scheduled at the end of the day and that too once a week, It was difficult to engage the students and the students at times made attempts to test my knowledge (given that I taught core subjects to grades 4th and 5th ONLY :)). I, for the first time witnessed the shocking manifestation of achievement gap in these classes – at grade-7 level while most students didn’t know how to divide, some of them didn’t know how to ‘correctly’ perform the other basic operations on numbers. It felt like students spoke or did math more out of their memory than with understanding.

On the flip-side, during these classes in Nalanda, I also met a student who never seemed to pay attention and later when asked a question used to give out the answer in a matter of seconds. I was impressed with this, as I was somewhat like him in school, so I asked him to share his method of approaching these problems with the class but to which he refused. Well the only way to get him engaged was, i realized, to increase the level of rigor for him and surprisingly this worked for him! So while, i facilitated grade-appropriate teacher-student interactions with Nalanda, i gave higher-order thinking questions to Vishal. One day we finally became friends (but he still didn’t share his methods – though he learned mine, well I thought that was the teacher’s curse :() and he walked up to me during the lunch break to “request” me to teach grade-8 mathematics in the next academic year. I wished I could teach them.

This year, I have felt privileged to be given these challenging grade-8 classes, where students thought-felt-believed that they hated math. I felt privileged because –

  • a) As this was an opportunity to show them how cool it was to be a math-wizard and to also teach them an important life-skill that of ‘self-empowerment through positive personal choices’.
  • b) More than this, for me it is a challenge to achieve this turn-around because this would help my students move this huge block in their minds to their advantage.
  • c) When I was in grade-7, even I hated math and circumstances taught me valuable skills that now I was on a perfect platform to impart to the next generation of my country.

And so – In the beginning of this academic-year, in my second math class while other students attempted a question I had given to the class, I walked up to Vishal to tell him that I wanted him to appear for the N.T.S.E exam. To do this,therefore, I told Vishal to start completing one-chapter-a-day while I taught in the class, with the result that he would finish the entire grade-8 syllabus in 2 months time. He agreed! And well, this marked my first successful step towards my achieving vision for my students. Within, 15 days Vishal has inspired 12 other students to follow-suite and now not only the ones who were average want to achieve ‘super-brilliance’ in math by taking this challenge, but also students like Raju, who struggle with basic math sit with these 13 other students and attempt to solve the easier chapters first. Together, on an average, these students have finished on their own (with little help from me after school or during the breaks) 6 chapters (out of 24 in grade-8) in ~15 days.

One-chapter-a-day my students are taking giant strides towards realizing their potential!

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