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June 24, 2013

'Teaching' at Auroville

I have been asked, what I do in Auroville. I work at a couple of schools Udavi and Isai Ambalam. In the mornings I work in Udavi with kids in grades 7th through 10th. In the afternoons I work in Isai Ambalam with younger children preschool-7th in Isai Ambalam school.

The closest description of what I do at the schools is that I make children and teachers think. In the little time that is permitted we look at things differently.

At Udavi, in the first week the French teacher was not back from vacation and I took a bagful of puzzles and games every day and worked with 7th to 10th graders. In the time I did not have classes I audited math classes and took a few minutes in the end to 'connect the dots' or give puzzles.

Along the journey of solving puzzles I talked to the children about Math and found consistently across classes two areas algebra and practical geometry that they were uncomfortable with. Algebra, because it is abstract. Practical geometry, due the the nature of writing what needs to be in certain terminology.

One of the interesting experiments was to talk about an algebra equation as a 'mystery' story. We started small, most children were comfortable with short stories 
I have 11 books, I bought some more and now I have 19, how many books did I buy?

I mixed it up a bit and we built up to: A man has three sons, to his eldest he gave half his cows. Of the rest he donated two and split the remaining between his other two sons. If the youngest got 4 cows, how many cows did he originally have:
(x/2-2)/2 =4

The focus was on getting stories and not getting lost in trying to solve them. It got interesting with equation with a second power :) and then higher powers.

One interesting thing that happened in class was when one kid while solving linear equations looked back and asked me if there was a story for that too.

Here is the story I told them...
Two brothers (Ram - elder and Shyam) were carrying sticks. Shyam says, brother if you gave me one of your sticks we would both be carrying the same number of sticks. Ram smiles and says if you give me one of yours I will be carrying twice the number of sticks that you carry.

I was connecting the dots in class with what they do in algebra of solving linear equations is equivalent of solving for the intersection of two straight lines on a plane.

Its been fun and I have received some interesting feedback - some kids think its great that they are starting to understand that what they study has some use in the world. At the same time a small minority were happy just substituting values in formula and are getting all confused when asked to look at it graphically ;). Ah well...

At Isai Ambalam I have been meeting the teachers in the evening to provide an opportunity to share about their day and speak in English. Starting this week, I'm auditing the classes here too.

I also have an electronics class with the 10th grade kids for an entire year and I'm quite excited about what we can do with consistent work over the year.

I also learnt that I'm trying too hard and try to cram too many concepts in a short time to slow down and be careful about what I want to convey.

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