Where dull teaching comes from

‘Do you know what the Internet is?’ I asked kids in the village.
‘No’ They replied.
‘Really? Never heard about it?’ I couldn’t believe it. Some of them were from the 9th standard at school, and they have never used the Internet! How could they survive? Am I able to live without it? Absolutely not. I have to go to Wikipedia every time my five years old daughter asks a question. I can easily forsake most pleasures of modern civilization, I can survive for a long time even in those places where there is no Arabic coffee (wow!) but I definitely cannot live without an Internet connection.

I then tried to explain them what the Internet is. I thought I would reveal them the whole new, exciting world so that they would never want to come back offline. However, they looked at me with dull expressions on their faces, and I myself was surprised how boring my explanation was. Then I plugged my mobile modem into my laptop and tried to open some web-sites. However, the connection was so weak, and the pages loaded so slowly that the kids became even more bored. If we had been in Bangalore, I would have shown them online films or video games. But I guess in Bangalore I wouldn’t need to explain anyone what the Internet was about. Instead, Bangalore kids could teach me the latest and coolest online things. But Bangalore is eight hours away from us by bus (and half a century by development) and the connection here doesn’t allow much.

It’s unbelievable! The Internet is such a big part of my life but I was unable to talk about it in a way that would sound interesting. I was exactly like maths teachers who teach all their classes by only writing formulas and theorems. Maths is so exciting, so overwhelming, but most find it boring or incomprehensible, and the only reason is that the maths teacher rarely goes further than writing something on the blackboard with chalk. Like with my Internet example, maths is impossible to explain with words and formulas. It has to be lived through.

In maths lessons, maths should not be talked about, maths should really happen. Something should be glued together, something else should be mercilessly cut into pieces. Something should blow up, break, or miraculously be saved from breaking, and all that should be the result of some calculations. The concept of volume should be explained by submerging someone (the principal?) in a bathtub right in the middle of the lesson, and the Archimedes heat rays should burn ships. Some ideas:
Hands on math
Vi Hart
Media 4 math
Math pickle
Math Puzzle
Mr. Hoffman’s home page
Maths Net
Calculation Nation
Bright Storm
Math playground
Picasso math
Mathematics starters
Folding circles
Singapore math
Interactive Mathematics Miscellany and Puzzles
Math 4 teaching

After that I taught the kids some HTML. And this is when they became excited. I don’t think they understood what web pages are for but they enjoyed it when they changed something in the code and the look of the page changed as a result. It was the first time I saw someone for whom coding HTML was more exciting than surfing the Internet.

Published in: on 18/08/2011 at 19:24  Leave a Comment  

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