Researches prove that discussions and open conversations enhance the quality of learning and understanding among students. Number talk or a broader version of it, Math Talk, is an activity in which students are asked to solve problems in multiple ways and express their thinking verbally. This powerful tool doesn’t just help in enhancing the understanding of math concepts but also induces the element of ‘Math as a language’.
Like any other language, math has vocabulary, signs and symbols, syntax and context. Above all, math is universal. It is a language which is used in the same way around the world. But sadly, we don’t see it this way in our classrooms. As popular as this tool is in the developed world, Indian school system is yet to adopt it as a part of the active curriculum. At Aavishkaar, Math Talk or Ganit Charcha is an essential element of any session, be it online or offline.
Both for students and teachers, each session begins with a Charcha where participants look at a simple problem, present their answers and justify their thinking. This practice builds a culture in the classroom where multiple perspectives are accepted and appreciated. The focus is shifted away from finding that ‘one’ correct answer. Math is not seen as a straight-jacket technical ‘subject’ anymore but something that everyone sees, understands and relates with.
Elements like this make a class vibrant and dynamic. Everyone feels comfortable answering, since there is no fear of a ‘wrong answer’ but an excitement of ‘justifying the answer’; discussing and debating on each other’s response and learning something in this process. Participants start observing and thinking deeply about simple things and start talking about it. Everyone walks in the class with his/her own idea but leaves with many.
Talking about her experience of conducting these discussions in the sessions, Aavishkaar’s Co-Founder Sandhya Gupta mentions,
Lagataar ganit charcha karne se sab ki bhaasha badal jaati hai. Everyone starts talking in the language of math and that’s fantastic to watch. It gives precision and clarity to their thoughts. When students present their perspectives without hesitation and back it with a justification, it makes me very happy and satisfied. This is so important for their learning and I’m glad that we, as educators, are able to do this.
At Aavishkaar, we have a strong emphasis on visualisation. We try to show math. When there is a discussion going on among participants and we use visualisation to show a person’s thinking, it adds a lot of value to the collective learning. Everyone is able to see different perspectives and ways of attempting the same problem. It brings curiosity and creativity in the sessions. The need to justify each answer calls of critical thinking. And these are the three key focus areas of our pedagogy.
Such discussions are also good to gauge how much the participants have understood. It comes with experience but the facilitator is able to figure out what goes in the minds of the participants. It helps facilitators understand how the participants are thinking, how much they have learnt, and what methods they are using to solve the problem. Thus, it also acts as an assessment, more so because prompt response is expected.
In the 5-E Learning Cycle of Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate such discussions or Charcha are a fantastic tool for the ‘Engage’ bit.
As can be seen in the video, a simple puzzle is given to the participants that has 4 numbers in a grid. They have to tell which one doesn’t belong to the group and give ‘their reasons’ for the answer. Many interesting and fun answers come from participants and they are amazed to hear each-other’s reasons. This brings vibrancy, variety and the element of fun in the classroom along with the encouragement towards building the culture of justification and logical thinking.
This particular session in the video is being conducted for teachers and it is visible that they are thoroughly enjoying this problem designed for primary school students. It is evident that such discussions can be conducted beyond the boundaries of a conventional classroom as well. We can use them as ice-breakers, in a meeting with locals, with SHGs (Self-help groups) and many more places where participation is a must. It is a way to engage the audience, speak their minds and look at one thing from different perspectives.
Discussions are important and exposing our children to a culture where they put their thoughts to words is the best we can do for them so that they become logical thinkers and decision makers of tomorrow. Cheers to learning…Cheers to Charcha!