Reinventing math

S Sundaram

It was in early January that Teacher Plus asked me if I would be interested in guest-editing a special issue on math to be published in June 2020. I said yes immediately almost without thinking. Only a few hours later did I realize the enormity of the task I had committed to!

But a discussion with a few close professional friends and a review of the previous math special issue (published in June 2009), enabled me to draft a road map, draw up a list of topics and possible writers. The main focus was to be on the improvement of the quality and enrichment of math instruction in our schools.

After reviewing all the articles we received, we decided to group them under three broad sections.

“Policy and Perspectives”. In today’s globalized world, our students compete with the rest of the world and one of the crucial determinants of their success will be their competency in math. There is a need to compare our curriculum and performance globally. It is an accepted fact that the quality of math teaching and learning in India needs a lot of improvement. The national education policy, covering among other things, curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and teacher education, is one of the major instruments that can lead to the much needed improvement. Therefore, there is a need to critique the policy and its implementation.

“Pedagogy” which explores various issues related to teaching and learning of math in our schools. It points out aspects of math which have not been fully exploited by the curriculum. Math has acquired a “not-so-deserved” reputation of being a boring and difficult subject. However, the study of math has also given rise to a lot of puzzles, games and pastimes. Math improves deep thinking and deep thinking is pleasurable. Math provides for edutainment! One article even questions if math has been given too much importance in our schools!

Finally we have “Practice”. In spite of the bleak landscape at a pan-India level, a number of teachers, educators and schools are making efforts to provide students with rich learning experiences. Many of these efforts are also aimed towards students with disabilities of various kinds. Their motto, “think globally but act locally” needs wider acknowledgement and encouragement.

The range of the writers is varied – from teachers, principals, teacher educators and researchers to amateur enthusiasts! Age seems to be no bar to enjoying math, two of our oldest contributors being in their 80s! There is even distribution between men and women, contrary to a common perception that women avoid math. There is a delightful collection of math cartoons which appear throughout the issue. I hope readers will find the issue both entertaining and educative.

For me, it has been a wonderful opportunity, both for discovering new areas in math and getting to know youngsters who are also passionate about math. I would like to thank all the writers whose articles have made this issue a valuable resource. Thank you also to Teacher Plus.

Somewhat ironically, I have the Covid-19 lockdown to thank for giving me enough time to work on this project without too many distractions.

Finally thank you Gananth and Jayasree for your professional guidance and suggestions. Without your help it would have been very difficult for me to do justice to the project.

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