“My son tries to read each and every billboard be it in Hindi/English on his way to his grandmother’s house.” says the father of Anurag Raj; a student of Mindspark Centres for the past 18 months. You can hear and see from the father on this video.

We are a proud species. We rejoice when we achieve something and more so when our children attain heights.It is a feeling of victory when our child takes admission in a good school, when we see our child excelling in herclass, when we see her being appreciated. But nothing can describe our pride when someone asks her a question (we assume its tough for her) and she not only answers it correctly but also gives a logic behind it. Isn’t that the whole thought behind education, tuitions, good school, good grades – that our child is ‘learning with understanding’? A lot of factors contribute to this trait in a child mainly:

  1. Being Inquisitive – This is a trait she picks from her surroundings, parents and peers. The more she is answered in a satisfactory manner, the more she would be curious to learn new things.
  2. Learning atmosphere – Its not just the school where a child learns. She is learning every second of the day through her observations of human behaviour and surroundings.
  3. Exposure – Exposure to new learning measures apart from text books.

At Mindspark centre we have children coming from surrounding urban slums. 75% kids are going to government schools while majority of others are studying in affordable private schools. These kids have a rare exposure to the above 3 factors. For us it’s a challenge not just to equip them with right knowledge but to also inculcate the feeling of ‘Why we need to learn’. Hence for us it’s a feeling of accomplishment when we see our children learning and working hard to understand concepts, therefore bridging the gap between their actual levels and class grade. This obviously doesn’t happen overnight,despite what most parents of low-income neighborhoods want. While in school it takes a complete year to get promoted to the next grade, its not the same in our centre. Here a child learns and progresses at his speed and aptitude. There is no defined/fixed period to promote him. The only criteria is ‘has he learned and understood the topics of that grade’ and ‘can he apply them in day to day life’. None of this is at the discretion of staff. The promotion to next level is supported by some very strong data and systems. To elaborate and emphasise on this point we would like to share one such story of Anurag Raj.

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Anurag’s family has been a resident of Nehru Camp, a slum in Govindpuri for past 3 decades. Anurag goes to a close by Government school and is also studying in Mindspark Centre, Govindpuri since December 2012. When he joined our centre his basics of whole number operations were very poor. A simple mixed digit addition, Example, 148 + 73 would take him a lot of time to solve as for him it was not just addition of 2 numbers. He had to comprehend the concept of Place value and carry over along with adding up the numbers manually which posed as a huge challenge. At that time he was in class 4 in school. We took his screening test to determine his actual learning level for Maths and Language. The result was quite disheartening.  A child who has been promoted for 3 consecutive years in school only knew some concepts of grade 1. One should know that there isn’t just one case like Anurag, instead there are many many such kids owing to current education system where children are being promoted every year by default. There is no actual analysis of whether or not they learnt anything. In simple words, all kids pass and none fail till they reach Class 9. In this process many parents and children neglect the importance of learning in initial years of schooling and realise it only when the up gradation to next class becomes dependent on the marks they score. But this wasn’t the case with Anurag. Elaborate discussions took place with Anurag’s parents (as is done with every parent) to make them considerate towards their child’s real learning levels.Anurag’s father first recognised where his child was lacking and then emphasised that we are free to teach him the way we want, we can demand any help or cooperation from them and that he wants to see a difference in his kid even if its gradual and not immediate. This was quite different from what parents usually demand. We are more accustomed to hearing parents demanding immediate result without real understanding of their child’s current status or suggesting that its ok to resort to punishments because that is how kids learn.

Anurag hence began his classes from Level 1 for both Maths and Language. Now a child can move towards higher levels in 2 ways –

  1. If he clears a quarterly test of his current level and scores above 70% in the next level as well i.e. he appeared for Level 1 test and scored >70%, he was then given test of Level 2 and he scored > 70% in that case his current level would be updated to Level 2

OR

  1. If he completes all the topics of his current level successfully and is then promoted to next.

In the table below is a summarised progress of Anurag over each Level Test. He worked very hard during his Mindspark sessions, asked doubts everytime he was stuck, made best use of offline classes and ensured that he was upgrading a level every 3 months by understanding the concepts of that grade in detail. His progress is not just limited to Mindspark. This change was reflected in his school result as well where he proudly says ‘ Didi! I stood first in my class this year’ and offers you a candy.

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In the above table –

  • Class – means his school grade level.
  • Langauge Level (LL) and Maths level (ML) are the one’s he achieved post tests.
  • Gap in LL and ML depicts the gap between his school grade and Mindspark level.
  • Highlights in yellow – show that child is now at same level in Mindspark as his school grade.
  • Highlights in green – show that child is 1 level ahead in Mindspark with respect to his school grade.

His growth through levels depicted in graphical format below –

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In the above graph – his class progress in school is on yearly basis (as shown in blue line). In case of Maths he progressed one level in each quarterly test uptill the month of November 2013 after which it took him 6 months to progress to next level i.e. 6 which is also his current school grade. In language his growth has been linear with respect to quarterly tests.

Anurag has not just grown linearly in his studies but also in his personal development. He has progressed from a shy kid who wouldn’t talk to anyone to an ever smiling kid who participates in each and every competition and wins most of the timeJ He wants to become a doctor when he grows up so he can help others.   His father is very happy with the progress and shared some Mindspark moments that he noticed–

  •  “He cannot stop talking about Mindspark centre after coming back home.”
  • “He fights with us to skip outings with family just so he doesn’t miss out on one class.”
  • “During PTM he makes sure we get ready and reach centre way before time just because his teachers emphasised on importance of reaching timely.”

These are some of the very proud moments for the Mindspark centre’s team.

Tehelka team has always been quite straight forward about the prevailing issues in our  country. Their voice reaches to nooks and corners of our society bringing real picture in the scenario. As a special for Independence day edition in 2013 they visited one of our centres and shot a documentary.

You tube link for documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcGbugUR5Ko

The special edition can also be viewed at – http://www.tehelka.com/independence-day-special-2013/

 

Student Interviews are a way of getting to know a concept from the viewpoint of a child. Deepening our understanding into how a child grasps a topic and what misunderstandings s/he can have helps us prepare questions and design the module in Mindspark, so as to address those misconceptions.

Below is a small student interview conducted by Karthik Dinne, Educational Specialist, Mindspark on the topic - Concept of Zero

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Case 1:
While doing the “remedial on division”, for a particular question student got the remainder in work space as “000”.He then tried to enter “000” in the place the answer box. This box accepted only two zeroes. Then he was complaining that the system is wrong and is not accepting “000”.
Me: So, Are both 00 and 000 the same?
Student: No, they are different.
Me: What about 0, 00, 000 ?
Student: All three are different.
Me: Why?
Student: Number of digits are different in each of those.
Me: <Showing “1” and “01”> Are these the same?
Student: No
Me: Why?
Student: There is extra zero in “01”.
Me: What about “01” and “10”?
Student: Both are different, ek zero aage hai, ek zero peeche hai. !
Me: 002 and 3, which is bigger?
Student: 002
<This student didn’t understand the concept of zero. He was comparing numbers by merely comparing the number of digits>
Case 2:
 
Question:  8-9 = ?
Student: 0
Reasoning: Student opened up 8 fingers and said “I have 8 chocolates”. I have to give 9 to my friend. He slowly started closing his fingers one by one. By the time he counted 8, all his fingers were closed. He didn’t know how to count the next number 9 but then said.. “abhi toh mere paas koi chocolate nahi bacha hai. So “0” hi hoga answer.
 
This student was still using the analogy of subtraction using objects learnt in his lower classes and was finding difficult to comprehend while trying to apply the same to negative integers.

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27 October ,2013 – 200 enthusiastic kids, 7 staff members, 19 parents and lots  of fun :D

Children are a bundle of energy and ideas. They interact,study,play and fight with us inside the centre. They follow a set of rules that instill value and discipline in them while breaking many other that allows them to be free. Although we lay special emphasis in establishing Human connect inside the centres but trips and outings are a key to establish connect with even those who would rarely speak to you in the confined premises of an educational institute.

A trip to Qutub Minar was organised by Govindpuri and Tekhand centre. A lot of preparation went into it since this was the first time we were organizing anything at this scale. Permission letters were sent out to all the parents,children were asked to get their tiffins and water bottles along with games and stuff to play with.

Staff had made preparation on their front by a few taking responsibility of children by taking them on a  guided tour,while others were paying more attention to children staying together,counting them ‘n’ number of times, ensuring all calls by parents were attended,all demands of children were met.

Kids had a blast not just in  Qutub Minar but also on way in buses where they played so many games with their ‘didi’ and ‘bhaiya’, sang songs,danced, clicked pictures, teased each other and did a lot of ‘masti’. Our kids were particular about maintaining cleanliness wherever they went, taking care of kids they were in charge of, throwing garbage only in bins and standing in a line.

Altogether it was a fun and learning experience not just for kids but also for staff and parents. We realized that managing 200 kids and organizing such a event can be a hectic and tiring experience but at the end of the day when you hear your kids say that ‘this was the best trip we have ever been to’, ‘we had so much fun’ and ‘ thanks for organizing it’  – it kind of makes up for all the hardwork :)

 

Smita Kothari has done her graduation in Masters in Journalism from Harvard University. She is a freelance writer based in Ahmedabad and Delhi, who brings out the human side in every story. Her website is at www.smitapranavkothari.com

She wrote an article in ‘The Alternative’ about the core concept of learning at Mindspark Centres i.e. Adaptive Learning and Education via technology.

You can read the article at http://thealternative.in/education/can-we-create-more-ranchos-and-less-silencers/

Mindspark, EI’s flagship offering, combines focused research and ground work on how children learn concepts in grades 1-10 to develop content which is both engaging and enabling.

EI has effectively used the data received from hundreds of questions, which have been answered by over fifty thousand students, to develop a list of the 200 of the most prominent misconceptions in Maths. We define a misconception as a strong incorrect idea a student possesses in a concept which affects his/her learning.

These misconceptions often occur because students already have preconceived notions about the concept, and tend to over-generalize their experiences. Misconceptions acquired in lower classes can continue in higher classes without any correction in the child’s learning. We believe it is crucial for us to remediate such misconceptions so that students can learn more effectively. Our goal is to make these videos available to teachers using Mindspark. We hope these videos help improve learning standards in the classroom.

In the following video- we consider a misconception from the topic Measurement of Time. Students believe that the hour hand of a clock points exactly to the hour at any given time. We explore the importance of the concept in which the misconception occurs and then establish the misconception using data from our offerings, Mindspark, ASSET and Detailed Assessment, or by using student interviews. We then investigate some of the possible reasons behind the misconception by understanding why students could possibly be thinking like this. Finally, we try and suggest possible remediation techniques. We hope that you like the video. Happy watching!

Day in and day out, math teachers hear the same question: “Why do I need to learn this?” Math teacher Peter Caryotakis has two answers for his students. “Because someday your children will ask you for help with their homework,” is his funny (but accurate) reply. He follows up with a more serious answer: “Because knowing math will keep as many doors as possible open in your future.”

Math teachers all over the country have their favorite answers to this timeless question, reasons that demonstrate why math matters. In a nutshell, these reasons can be summed up by three words: Personal, Practical, and Patriotic.

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Personal Reasons to Learn Math:

A person’s success in life depends on how well she can solve problems. No matter what her career or life situation, she’ll find satisfaction and reward by knowing how to tackle challenges head on. And while kids can’t possibly practice every problem they’ll ever have in life, there is a class in school that can help them learn how to think logically: math. Doing a math problem helps practice the problem-solving steps that apply to everyday situations: define the problem, think of ways to solve it, implement a solution, and evaluate the results.

Why do people go to the gym to ride the stationary bike? It’s not so that they can compete in the stationary bike Olympics, it’s to build up their endurance and strength to make the rest of their lives easier and more enjoyable. Math is like a gym for your brain. You may never need to use the quadratic equation in your adult life, but the process of learning it boosts your brainpower. By practicing how to solve mathematical problems, you optimize your ability to make complex decisions down the road.

In a speech entitled, “Teaching and Learning Algebra based on Neuroscience/Cognitive Science Research,” Math Professor Ed Laughbaum cited neuroscientist Dr. Richard Restak: “…intelligence is plastic and modifiable. All of our experiences result in the formation of neuronal circuits. The richer, more varied, and more challenging the experiences, the more elaborate the neuronal circuits.”[1] Studying abstract concepts like Algebra forces your brain to think in new ways, building the connections it will need to understand whatever problems the future might bring.

Practical Reasons to Learn Math:

Sometimes, not knowing basic math can cause a lot of trouble. Caryotakis offered this real-life example as a reason to learn basic math: “If your car has two gallons of gas, and thirty miles to travel, will you make it?” Not knowing the answer could lead to a long walk home.

Here are some other situations where making the wrong calculations could lead to embarrassing or even life-threatening consequences:

  • You’re going to visit Canada, and the forecast is for 32 degrees Celsius. Should you pack snow boots or flip-flops?
  • Your child needs fever medication at 3:00 in the morning. The package says to give two teaspoons to a sixty-pound child. If your child weighs forty pounds, how much should he have?
  • You and 8 friends went out to dinner, and they’ve asked you to divide the $177 bill. If you want to tip the waiter 20%, how much does each person owe?
  • You want to paint five bedrooms, each measuring 14 feet by 16 feet. How many gallons of paint will you need?
  • You want to get a thirty-year, fixed mortgage for $200,000. Is it better to get one at 5.6% with no points, or at 5.3% with two points?
  • Joe’s Peanut Butter costs $3.50 per pound. The store brand costs 23 cents per ounce. Which is a better deal?

It’s moments like those when adults wish they’d paid attention in math class.

Source: http://www.education.com/magazine/article/math-matters/

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary: A quick glance at two, unequal groups of paper clips leads most people to immediately intuit which group has more. In a new study, researchers report that practicing this kind of simple, instinctive numerical exercise can improve children’s ability to solve math problems.

A report of the study appears in the journal Cognition.
“We wanted to know how basic intuitions about numbers relate to mathematics development,” said University of Illinois psychology professor Daniel Hyde, who conducted the study with Saeeda Khanum, of Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, and Elizabeth Spelke, of Harvard University. “Specifically we wanted to know whether thinking intuitively about numbers, such as approximating and comparing sets without counting, helps in actually doing math.”
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Getting children to think intuitively about numbers — by asking them to approximate or compare two sets of objects without counting — boosts their ability to do arithmetic, researchers report.
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Brian Stauffer

To test this, the researchers asked first-graders to practice tasks that required them to approximate, or roughly evaluate the number of objects in a set without counting them. Other children did tasks such as comparing the brightness of two objects or adding the lengths of lines.

Children who practiced evaluating the number of objects performed better on arithmetic tests immediately afterward than did their counterparts who evaluated other qualities of objects, Hyde said.

“These results showed that brief practice with tasks requiring children to guess or intuit the number of objects actually improved their arithmetic test performance,” he said.

Additional experiments helped the team rule out other factors — such as greater motivation or level of cognitive engagement — that might contribute to the guessers’ enhanced math performance. The researchers also varied the difficulty of the arithmetic tests to see if the benefits of practicing intuitive judgments about the number of objects enhanced the children’s speed or accuracy, or both.

“For easier problems, where all children are very accurate, those who practiced engaging what we call their ‘intuitive sense of number’ performed roughly 25 percent faster than children practicing a control task,” Hyde said. “For more difficult problems, children engaging their intuitive sense of number scored roughly 15 percentage points higher than those practicing a control task. If this were a real quiz in school, these children would have scored about a letter grade and a half higher than those in the control conditions.”

Similar improvements were not seen on a verbal test, “suggesting the enhancing effect is specific to mathematics and is not due to general motivation or interest in the training task,” Hyde said.

“Previous studies have tested whether children who are better at intuitive number tasks also have higher math grades or perform better on math tests. There the answer is yes,” Hyde said. “Our study is the first to provide a causal link in children. We showed that practice on these kinds of tasks actually causes better math performance in children.”

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The original article was written by Diana Yates. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.