How about learning the formulas and concepts of Maths by clapping rhythms, playing cards and reciting poetries? This is what Manjul Bhargava, the first Indian to win the prestigious Fields medal, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in Maths, does while teaching his students in Princeton University in the US.
"The Mathematics of Magic Tricks and Games" is a course offered by Bhargava for freshmen, designed to expose students to the "truly creative side" of mathematics, and to "make mathematics fun", he says. "Maths for mathematicians is similar to what music is for musicians or art is for artists. This method of teaching Maths is a nice way to introduce kids to something that is mostly feared. It makes Maths memorable and enjoyable."
"In grade school, mathematics is sometimes taught in a very robotic way - here is the problem and here are the steps to solve it," Bhargava said. "As a result, sometimes it comes off as dry and students don't see the imaginative aspect. This course is meant to show that math is not a robotic science at all. It is an art and has a truly creative side. Indeed, that's how mathematicians approach mathematics — creatively."
Bhargava would be among renowned academicians from US to teach in centrally funded educational institutes under the Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN) initiative, the launch of which was announced last year by the Narendra Modi Government.
"Manjul Bhargava, awarded the Fields Medal 2014, has kindly consented to be a part of GIAN. Manjul Bhargava seeks to enliven Math teaching in India. Wants to give back to his roots so that others get wings to fly," HRD minister Smriti Irani had tweeted recently. The announcement comes a couple weeks before US President Barack Obama's visit to India.
He will be visiting India more frequently and give lectures to both teachers and students on how to make Maths an attractive subject. In some areas of India, he may also teach Maths in Hindi, for students in the formative years, to help make fundamental concepts more accessible.
"Learning in one's native language allows a child to think naturally and more creatively, and thus can lead to a better understanding of the subject. It enables the learner to think more eloquently," he told HT.
"In my formative years, I was taught the pahadas (tables) and other concepts of Maths in Hindi. This definitely helped me a lot personally."