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Zilla parishad school churns out math wizards

Nagpur: Eight year-old Trupti Tidgam's eyes dart across the classroom's blackboard a couple of times as she grips the chalk firmly. After taking one last look at the complex mathematical equation—787511x242+551121-98,911=?—scribbled on the board by a visiting education officer, she confidently cracks it. How many of us can solve this math problem without using a calculator? Probably zero. But all 41 students of a tiny zilla parishad primary school in Pandegaon village, about 50km from Nagpur, have turned into math wizards, thanks to a special teaching approach. Headmaster Pravin Falke, along with the sole teacher at the school, Vaishali Sakharkar, had chanced upon this teaching technique about two years ago. "As student strength is small, everybody sits together. While teaching all children one subject at a time, we noticed that Std I students were subconsciously absorbing the knowledge being imparted to Std V children," says Falke. As Std I students began solving double-digit math problems with ease, Falke stepped on the accelerator. "We shifted to three-digit, then four, five and even six-digit problems. After a few weeks, the students were able to grasp the basics of solving multi-digit problems and also improve on their speed." Sakharkar adds, "The teaching concept is extremely simple...You have to get the basics right and build on it because kids learn very fast." Falke has also innovated the idea of teaching multiple subjects using a single concept. "I teach them how to read time by looking at the position of the small and big hands on the clock. Then on the board I draw the two hands, without any round dial or numbers for reference. Guessing the position of the hands, children tell the time. Then I take it a bit further by teaching them angles, because the two hands are like perpendicular lines. "The students also subtract the time displayed on the board with the actual time to tell how many school hours are left, thus bringing in maths. "This is how children should to be taught because they have the capacity to understand the most complex of subjects using a teaching aid that they can relate to." The school's exploits are being emulated by others. Narendra Nibhorkar, block education officer who supervises over 150 schools, says, "Six more schools are following in Pandegaon school's footsteps. By next year, 50% of the schools could be of the same level." The zilla parishad's challenge now is getting high schools up to Pandegaon school's level. District education officer Dipendra Lokhande says, "When these students move to high school, they must get the same atmosphere, else the entire effort will be wasted."

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