( The following blog post is an extract from a letter I wrote to my cousin describing my delight at discovering Alpha Maths, published by Scholastic India. Read on.)
My five-year-old daughter who is in kindergarten is learning numbers 1-100, number bonds, reading time and drawing it on the face of a clock, simple addition and subtraction, story sums/word problems, etc. It is quite a lot for a small child of five, but she is learning. It needs her to practice regularly, but then maths cannot be learned overnight. Maths is slightly challenging for my daughter as opposed to say learning music. Whereas I love maths. I have browsed through many workbooks in print, downloaded worksheets available online, installed apps on my iPad, but none have been very satisfactory. Instead I have been creating problems to explain the basics to my daughter. Recently, I came across a wonderful set of books introduced by Scholastic India called Alpha Maths ( http://scholastic.co.in/en/alpha-maths ). The Alpha Maths series are a set of books created by Scholastic India for Classes 1 – 5. Each set consists of a teacher’s manual ( with worksheet templates provided), coursebook and practice book. The idea is to introduce a child to the beauty and design of this discipline, rather than create mathsphobia. As Neeraj Jain, MD, Scholastic India told me, “These are a prescription product, cutting across different boards of school education present in India”. He used the word “product” carefully, since he is not very keen to see books as products, but in this case it is true. These books have been created after inputs from various educational departments and scanning documents, including the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) of the Government of India outline for the primary school Maths syllabus. Then yesterday my daughter returned from school, triumphantly waving her school diary. Her class teacher had commended her for doing the addition sums on her own. The latter I attribute to working regularly with her, making up sums as we go along + introducing her to the Alpha Maths books. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would latch on to a “prescription product” so dearly.
Take for instance the books my daughter is using for now. These are meant for Form 1, but many of the units of inquiry are in-step with what she is being taught in Kindergarten. So the Teacher’s Manual explains the concepts and illustrates it with a few examples, cross-referencing it to the other two books in the set. The Coursebook is what the student is expected to use in class while the teacher is introducing a new concept in Maths. It is in four-colour with each section slowly explaining to the child how to proceed with the sum. What I truly appreciate about this layout is the visual representation of the mathematical problem, thus making the logic and application of the discipline self-evident, without obscuring it in a bewildering forest of numbers. I also like the approach to a problem from multiple angles, rather than restricting it to looking at it only one way. There is so much more! Then they offer a Practice book, printed in black and white, but for the student to use for homework. It is basically a bunch of multiple worksheets.
I also discovered that Scholastic India is working on creating an implementation guide to be made available to schools and educators, to
help students and teachers transition from one particular style of studying/school board to adopting these maths books. I have not been so excited about a maths course book for a very long time. I wish we had had such textbooks when we were studying. I realise that these books would work for CBSE, state boards and even for students of International Baccalaureate since it is a pedagogical approach.
What I also like very much about these books is the multi-cultural dimension apparent in the number sums. For instance, names are Indian, Asian, American, Chinese etc. Plus the references to Indian currency, rather than American Dollar is a huge relief. So there is minimal cultural alienation to the child and educator, something we keep coming up against when accessing maths books being sold in the market or downloading apps on the iPad. Unfortunately these books are not available at all bookstores unlike the horrendous repackaged maths workbooks or remaindered workbooks flooding our markets. Instead Scholastic is willing to provide these books to the school stores they usually work with. Given how reasonably priced the course and practice books are, I can only hope they will be soon available everywhere. The Teacher’s Manuals are provided complimentary by the publishing house to the schools.
I like the fact that these books dwell on the fundamentals required to understand maths, its applications and then slowly building upon it, without the student even realising how much they have imbibed.
18 March 2015