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February 23, 2014

Learning from children...

Having been in alternative education circles I had heard, 'I learnt a lot more than kids than they learnt from me' often enough to wonder if this is an stretched truth. There are certainly aspects like patience, deep listening and learning to look at problem in a different ways, keeping it simple that you need as a teacher. But, is there more?...I sat down to write things that I might have never looked at or learnt if I had not worked with kids:
1) p^2-1 for a prime number (>3) is divisible by 24.
2) Thinking of how to explain p^2-1 = (p+1)(p-1) in pictures.
3) Speaking better Tamil.
4) Experiments with magnets, batteries, potatoes, tomatoes that I had read, but never done.
5) Demonstrating a full wave rectification using only a single probe oscilloscope.
6) A triangle with a chord as diameter always makes an angle of 90' with any point on the circle.
7) Solving algebric problems without algebra and noticing the beauty in such logical solutions.
8) Visualizing fraction additions and subtractions without indulging in LCM.
9) A beautiful method of approximating fractions into decimal (50%, 10%, 1%).
10) Thinking of a simple experiment to understand capacitance.
11) Coupled pendulums and Barton's pendulum that explains resonance without getting to an LC oscillator.
12) Technique to solder properly.
13) Working with Arduino

Of course, there are many things I have learnt about teaching itself:
1) Teaching= 90% Patience+10% everything else.
2) Keep it simple, keep it slow.
3) Importance of presence, mental silence.
4) Making abstract concrete, making concrete abstract.
5) Give something easy, give something difficult, give something to keep everyone busy.
6) Motivation of doing something needs revisiting every once in a while.
7) Keep them interested and place (some) responsibility of learning on children.
8) Don't ask a question if it isn't one.
9) They didn't get it just because you said it. Repeat, repeat.
10) Internalization does not come without practice.
11) One example can lead to interesting generalizations, give more examples.
12) Get children to make their own problems (word problems).
13) Talk math, create situations when children listen to each other.
14) Many children do learn concepts better in their mother tongue.
14) Purpose of education.

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