04 December, 2020

Slay Those Numbers

Schools are now using the abacus and other alternative means to help kids overcome their fear of mathematics

Abhijit Bhatlekar
Slay Those Numbers
Vrushank Ramachandran, age 5, stands before a wooden frame filled with bright yellow beads, eyes and mind focused on the centre of the abacus. Behind him an instructor calls out "10+7+4". Vrushank’s little hands move a few beads and he bursts out: "21." "Right!" exclaims his triumphant teacher, and the other kids give their youngest mate an encouraging thumbs-up at the Wizkids centre, Delhi, affiliated to the Malaysia-based International Mental Arithmetic Academy.

"Another sum, please sir, big numbers," asks Vrushank, eyes dancing with excitement. "Okay, 34+36+43," says Puvalur Krishnamurthi, the teacher. Moving the beads like a blaze, Vrushank calls out: "113". "Correct again!" exults the teacher. Delighted that his bead-play can help him compute sums with mind-zapping speed, faster than pencil-pushing kids twice his age, Master Calculus breaks into a jig.

Many of India’s learning hotspots are offering young minds new modes of doing maths, showing them how to count like the ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Vedic Indians, and introducing them to funky maths labs and...



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