Math teacher or mathemagician?

Anil Kumar Patnaik

Mathematics is seen as a subject to be endured rather than enjoyed, but the fact is, it is one of the most interesting and creative subjects. Mathematics is an exact science, the subject in which literature flows, where visualization can be done easily and effectively. It is the conventional system of teaching that makes mathematics monotonous and mundane. It is, therefore, the teacher who can make a difference by thinking innovatively. S/he can look for interesting relationships between numbers, use humour, analogies, anything to make mathematical concepts more vivid. It is the sole responsibility of the subject teacher to instill love for the subject. How? Here is an instance of how my alter ego, Abhas, does it.

***

As Abhas entered the classroom, he asked his students, “You want to see magic?”The students were excited at these words.“Yes,” they shouted. He brought two chart papers with him and opened one of them. It was very colourful indeed. He fixed it on the wall.

Mathematics Restaurant
Menu
(Chart Paper-1)

Midpoint Masala Conjecture Kurma Postulate Papad
Congruent Kulcha Quadratic Curry Collinear Chat
Algebraic Aloo Dum Vertex Bhurji Triangle Toast
Tangram Tandoori Tetrahedron Chilly Linear Lollipop
Arithmetic Fried Rice Mean Manchurian Improper Idly
Twin Prime Toast Frustum Falooda Diagonal Dosa
Polynomial Pesarattu Diameter Dopyaja Centroid Chawal
Incentre Ice cream Quadrant Chatpatta Sector Sabji
Theorem Tikka Tangent Tadka Rhombus Raita
Natural Lassi Kite Kadai Segment Soup
Irrational Butter Masala

As the students saw the chart and the names of the items on the menu, they became curious as to what Abhas sir was up to.

“Okay,” said Abhas, “Choose your favourite food from this menu. Don’t say it out loud. I will tell you what you thought of.”

“Sir, do you read minds? How can you tell us what we thought of?” asked Prapti.

“That is the magic in mathematics,”said Abhas as he opened his second chart paper.

(Chart Paper-2)
Do you have it here ?

A B C D E
Midpoint Masala Conjecture Kurma Diameter Dopyaja Vertex Bhurji Irrational Butter Masala
Tetrahedron Chilly Postulate Papad Centroid Chawal Triangle Toast Twin Prime Toast
Arithmetic Fried Rice Collinear Chat Incentre Ice Cream Tangram Tandoori Frustum Falooda
Improper Idly Algebraic Aloo Dum Quadrant Chatpatta Tetrahedron Chilly Diagonal Dosa
Frustum Falooda Tangram Tandoori Natural Lassi Linear Lollipop Polynomial Pesarattu
Polynomial Pesarattu Tetrahedron Chilly Kite Kadai Arithmetic Fried Rice Diameter Dopyaja
Centroid Chawal Mean Manchurian Segment Soup Mean Manchurian Centroid Chawal
Quadrant Chatpatta Improper Idly Irrational Butter Masala Improper Idly Incentre Ice Cream
Theorem Tikka Diagonal Dosa Congruent Kulcha Sector Sabji Quadrant Chatpatta
Postulate Papad Polynomial Pesarattu Quadratic Curry Theorem Tikka Sector Sabji
Quadratic Curry Incentre Ice Cream Collinear Chat Tangent Tadka Theorem Tikka
Algebraic Aloo Dum Quadrant Chatpatta Algebraic Aloo Dum Irrational Butter Masala Segment Soup
Triangle Toast Tangent Tadka Linear Lollipop Natural Lassi Rhombus Raita
Rhombus Raita Rhombus Raita Arithmetic Fried Rice Kite Kadai Natural Lassi
Kite Kadai Irrational Butter Masala Mean Manchurian Segment Soup Kite Kadai
Irrational Butter Masala Segment Soup Improper Idly Rhombus Raita Tangent Tadka

Prapti raised her hand and said, “ Sir, I have thought of an item.”
“Okay, look at chart paper 2 and tell me if the item you chose is in column A.”
Prapti replied, “Yes.”
“Column B?”
“Yes.”
“Column C?”
She smiled and replied with excitement, “Yes.”
“Column D?”
“Hmm… no,” she replied.
“Column E?”
Prapti replied, “Yes.”
Instantly Abhas said, “Quadrant Chat Patta”
“Wow!” said Prapti and a chorus sounded in astonishment.
Many hands went up. Everyone wanted a turn.
“Choose your items and check in which columns they appear. This will save us time and help me answer you quickly.”
Alen stood up, “Sir, my favourite item is in columns, B, C and D.”
“okay… Mean Manchurian is your favourite.”
“Uuuu…,” a chorus reverberated but this time they were spellbound.
Sunit stood up and said, “My favourite item is in columns B, C, and E.”
Abhas replied, “ But don’t consume a lot of icecream, Incentre IceCream.”
Quadratic Curry, Tangram Tandoori, Frustum Falooda, Centroid Chawal, Kite Kadai…. Abhas sir answered them all. Serenity transformed into clamour with the ongoing excitement of the children, but amusement persisted in the cacophony. Meanwhile, the bell rang. As Abhas was about to roll up the chart, Sambit came forward and asked, “Sir, if my favourite item is in column A, then it would be Midpoint Masala?”
“Yes,” Abhas replied with a smile.
As Abhas was about to close, Sambit persisted, “If it is only in column E, then it would be Twin Prime Toast.”
A thousand-watt smile flashed on the teacher’s face, he showed him a thumbs-up and said, “Sambit, this will be our project for the mathematics exhibition and you will present this experiment.”
‘Yeah…”, Sambit punched the air with exhilaration.
As Abhas left the class, the children started gathering around Sambit.
Meanwhile, the peon came and handed a slip to Abhas, “Please meet me in my office.” The note was from Mr. Sharma, the principal of the school.

As Abhas entered the principal’s office, Mr. Sharma said, “Abhas, I was on my rounds and observed something interesting going on in your class. As I stood outside and listened, my curiosity piqued. Please tell me how you managed to guess the students’ choices?”

With a beam of satisfaction on his face Abhas said, “Sir, this is a simple arrangement that I have done in class with interesting names. This can be done with any numbers, especially in the form of (2n-1).”Abhas took out a paper from his pocket and showed it to Mr. Sharma.

1.Midpoint Masala 2.Conjecture Kurma 3.Postulate Papad
4.Congruent Kulcha 5.Quadratic Curry 6.Collinear Chat
7.Algebraic Aloo Dum 8.Vertex Bhurji 9.Triangle Toast
10.Tangram Tandoori 11.Tetrahedron Chilly 12.Linear Lollipop
13.Arithmetic Fried Rice 14.Mean Manchurian 15.Improper Idly
16.Twin Prime Toast 17.Frustum Falooda 18.Diagonal Dosa
19.Polynomial Pesarattu 20.Diameter Dopyaja 21.Centroid Chawa
22.Incentre Ice cream 23.Quadrant Chatpatta 24.Sector Sabji
25.Theorem Tikka 26.Tangent Tadka 27.Rhombus Raita
28.Natural Lassi 29.Kite Kadai 30.Segment Soup
31.Irrational Butter Masala

“Sir, here I have taken 31 different items, because 25-1=31. We can take any number like 7, 15, 31, 63,127, etc., because each of them is (2n-1).” He opened his first chart paper and said,“I have the menu of a mathematics restaurant here. It needn’t always be food. We can even have lists of our favourite books, teachers, film stars, etc. On the chart paper, I have not numbered the food items, but as per their positions I have remembered their numbers.”

“Okay, that’s interesting,” said Mr. Sharma.

Abhas opened the second chart paper and explained, “Sir, here I made five columns because I have taken the number 31, which is 25-1. In column A, I wrote the numbers alternatively that is 1, 3, 5, …, 31. Total of 16 numbers. In column B, there is a gap of two numbers after every two numbers, i.e., after 2 and 3, I have 6 and 7, then 10, 11 and so on until 30, 31, again 16 numbers. In column C, the gap is of four numbers after every four numbers. After 4,5,6,7, we have 12, 13, 14, 15, ….28, 29, 30, 31. In column D, the gap is of 8 numbers – 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31. And in column E the last sixteen numbers that is 16, 17, ….30, 31. In each case, the total number is 16.

“ But, why did you start with these particular numbers only?” Mr. Sharma asked.
“A good question sir. Column A starts with 1, I took it because 20=1, Column B starts with 2, as 21=2 similarly other columns too and column E starts with 16 as 24=16,” explained Abhas.
“That’s fine but how did you answer their choices?” asked Mr. Sharma.
“ Okay, let’s do it, please make a choice sir.”
“Me?”, okay…”
Abhas asked, “Your chosen item is in Column A?”
“No.”
“Column B?”
“Yes.”
“Column C?”
“No.”
“Column D?”
“Yes.”
Finally, he asked, “Column E?”
“Yes.”
“Sir, you have chosen Tangent Tadka.”
“Yes!” Mr. Sharma slapped his table in excitement. “But please tell me how you did it.”
“Yes sir, for column B -2, column D-8 and column E-16 and 16+8+2=26 and the 26th item is Tangent Tadka. For example, if someone says – the chosen item is in all the columns, then it would be 1+2+4+8+16=31 and the 31st item is Irrational Butter Masala. I have left it to students to think and find the solutions, let them be curious.”
“That’s lovely Abhas, you are taking this one as an exhibit for the exhibition?”
“Yes sir, this will be one of the exhibits and Sambit has already guessed it, he can make it easier.”

As Abhas walked out of his office, Mr. Sharma stared after him appreciatively.

Like it is said, a teacher can make a lot difference in how a student perceives a subject. Just like how Abhas made math fun and magical for his students as if he was a mathemagician.

The author is an enthusiastic educator of mathematics and writes on topics related to innovative and engaging educational methods. He is known for his creative skills, story writing, dramatic and mimicry abilities, disciplined lifestyle and contributions as a community worker. He can be reached at [email protected].

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