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Happy Maths, happy kids

Last updated: 16 June, 2010

Mala Kumar, writer and educational consultant, and editor at Pratham Books, is the author of eight books for children including Kolhapur to Beijing-Freestyle, the Happy Maths series, and Ritus Letter Gets Longer.

She has conducted many workshops for students and teachers to help them look at content in innovative ways for over 15 years now.

She speaks to DH Education about why it is important for parents, teachers and students to make a ‘mind-shift’ when it comes to books and learning.

How did you begin writing content for school kids?
As a consultant engaged in non-formal education, I had the freedom to teach the way I wanted to, with no restrictions whatsoever and no expertise on pedagogy either! My aids to developing content for my workshops were the daily newspapers with their rich mix of information.

Storytelling seems to be the core of your content-writing process, even for Maths and Science. Why is that?

As a journalist, I am fascinated with stories, especially true stories that have the capacity to teach without weighing heavily on the reader’s mind. What better way to teach children the basics of Science and Maths? There is nothing innovative about using stories to teach, since in India the oral storytelling tradition has always been a method of teaching.

What about the classroom experience? Did it take a lot of convincing to get teachers to teach differently?
Good teachers are always open to new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking. Pratham Book’s Happy Maths series has been downloaded by lots of people. Schools can encourage teachers to adopt more progressive ways of teaching. All of us — teachers, parents and students — have to realise that learning happens in many ways and through different media. Textbooks are small toolkits. Supplementary reading material, like newspapers, magazines, story books, make great teachers.

What are the long-term benefits of learning ‘core’ subjects the fun way?

Having an appetite to learn is the most important aspect of learning. If the fun way of learning helps children to start appreciating a subject, then the chances of them continuing to read and learn more are high. The converse is equally true. Once a student dislikes a subject because it has been introduced in a boring way, it is difficult to make him like the subject later.

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