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Prepping the teachers for Ganitha Kalika Andolana.

Teacher training under Ganitha Kalika Andolana in Koppal district IMG_1161 I was eagerly looking forward to visiting a centre where the Teacher training was in progress. I got the opportunity in Koppal district, one of the 6 districts in the Hyderabad–Karnataka region, where the Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) is being rolled out by the Government of Karnataka along with Akshara Foundation. IMG_1254 The first visit was outside Koppal town, down a rutted mud road, which deposited us inside the pleasant compound of the Urdu HPS school. The teacher training was in progress and the participants were fairly engaged in doing the task given by the Resource Persons (RPs)– in this case it was a revision of the multiplication process using the Teaching-learning material provided in the Akshara Math Kit. There were three RPs, all of them High School math teachers, who had a clear grasp of the principles behind the pedagogy and were confidently answering the queries. IMG_1259 When the topic of fractions was started, one teacher wanted to know why the fractions in Kannada should not be named as ‘one-fifth’, for instance, instead of ‘five parts of which one’ – to loosely translate the practice in the Kannada language. Finally we agreed that it is best to teach children terminology that is used in the text-book, which also maintains uniformity across all schools in the state. I was touched when one of the RPs picked up the Teacher Manual and told me, “This Manual is the Bhagavad Gita – it has everything we need to teach maths!” IMG_1309 At the second training center we visited, the participants were sitting out under the shade of a tree, since it was a small and stuffy room allotted for the training. Here too there was a High School teacher who was conducting the session single-handedly, with assistance from Ramesh, Akshara’s District Coordinator. IMG_1332 Many of the teachers were in some confusion about converting time on the 12 hour clock to the 24 hour clock; an interesting session on area and perimeter followed. They admitted that in the school the portions relating to geometry were usually hurried through at the end of the academic year. IMG_1211 There was a request for extending the training by one more day so that adequate time could be given for activities. The RP was very grateful that “Akshara has given such a beautiful Kit to students in Government schools.” See how the two days were spent by all these teachers and RPs, in pictures.  – By Kanchan Bannerjee


We launched Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) with a lot of gusto, amid even more applause. This first-of-its-kind programme in partnership with the Karnataka Government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is going to cover 3,00,000 children in over 7,500 schools. We know what you’re thinking – that’s a huge figure.

But for us, it’s just the beginning. Or as we like to call it, Phase 1. Getting a programme like this to be rolled out in six districts was relatively simple. It is getting the children taught in the right manner using this kit – that’s the BIG challenge. Akshara_In-School Programme_059 When resource people and teachers, the people who are going to spearhead its progress hereon see the contents of the Big Box or the GKA kit for the very first time, they are awestruck and taken aback at the same time. They are torn between a ‘wow’ and a ‘How am I going to use all this and teach math?’ 1 It’s simple, really. With some seriously-intensive training. And no puns intended. Training is an integral part of every new beginning, and is necessary for a smooth transition, progress and therefore, success.

Within days of the Andolana going LIVE, all training charts had been drawn up and calls started pouring in. Everyone seemed keen on getting this show on the road. There are three levels to the GKA training programme. The first level was training given by Akshara Foundation to the Master Resource Persons. The second was a 3-day session exclusively for Cluster Resource Persons (CRPs) and experienced teacher trainers from all clusters, trained by Master Resource Persons of Akshara Foundation. 1   From 23rd June to 30th September ’15, out of 1,400 resource people to be trained, we covered 1,280 – about 120 CRPs have yet to be assigned to their clusters by the state education department. Hardly had they been trained, they were eager to begin the 3rd round of training immediately.

For instance, within a few days of their training, the resource people at Devadurga waited impatiently for the kits to arrive. The minute they did, they fixed the 23rd of July to kick-start the teachers’ level of training. The third and final round will see these CRPs transfer their knowledge to the 8,300 teachers of the government primary schools in all districts. And as of 31st July ’15, around 684 teachers have already been trained. DSC_0357 We visited a 2nd level training programme in Urdu, at Gulbarga and could not help but share our experience. A group of 30 uncertain looking people slowly trickled into the classroom, unsure of what to expect over the next three days. They all had one common expression – why in the world was Akshara teaching them basic math? DSC_0176   The group was trained by Mr. Deshpande and Mr. Kulkarni, retired educationists who were first trained by Akshara Foundation. Nothing could have braced these 30 for what was about to hit them. Out came the blocks, foam squares and beaded ropes, to explain how they could be used in Addition and Subtraction. And with that, their eyes started widening with interest. Addition and Subtraction later, the group was hooked. DSC_0215 They could not peel their eyes away from the board. Frantic notes were being taken, questions fired, things being pulled out of the kits to see how they could do it on their own. It was chaos, fun and learning, all rolled into one roller-coaster class. This was followed by multiplication, division, fractions… slowly every one of the 21 items were used to cover the entire 4th and 5th standard syllabi. After each concept, they kept exclaiming if it could interest them this much, imagine how the children will love this way of learning.     DSC_0335 They were busy solving math problem after problem, using element after element. The paper money, base 10 blocks and foam squares seemed to catch their fancy the most. It was amazing to see how they had all become children in class all over again, learning to love math the way it should be loved.   DSC_0242 And this is just one such success story, from one of the training programmes. Imagine the sheer magnanimity of this movement when all 8,300 teachers and 1,400 resource people join in as enthusiastically! Check out our entire album on the 2nd level of training sessions.   

“Way Cooler Than The Robotics Lab In My School!”

A few weeks ago, I visited a government school in Viveknagar, Bangalore to see how they learn in India. The school has a Robotics Lab. I saw how they build their robots and it was very cool! I also admired them, because they let me help them with their robots.


They had built a spinning top robot, a drumming monkey robot and a robotic boat to name a few. I made friends with a boy named Kevin Joseph. He is a very good builder and we built a robot together.

Thanks to Akshara Foundation and Mr. Sridhar for running the lab.


– By Omkar Tharuvesanchi
3rd grade
Washington GT Elementary
Raleigh, NC

The way forward for ‘Early Childhood Education in Anganwadis’.

Organised by Akshara Foundation, the national seminar on `Early Childhood Education in Anganwadis – Partnerships & Opportunities’ highlighted the need for quality early childhood learning in government-run anganwadis. DSC_0641 The seminar was inaugurated by Smt. Umashree, Hon. Minister, Women and Child Welfare and Kannada &Culture, Government of Karnataka. On the dias were also some of the staff of ICDS- an AWW, a supervisor and a CDPO rubbing shoulders with the Minister and the Trustees of AF. The Minister in her inaugural speech seemed very open to a discussion regarding ways to implement effective ECE through the system. DSC_0659 _DSC0048 This was followed by a very thorough talk by Prof Venita Kaul, (CECED, Ambedkar University, Delhi) on the importance of early years and the necessity for good quality preschool education. _DSC0060 Soon after, a panel discussion on the role of NGOs in partnering with the government followed. The panel discussion concluded with a consensus on enhancing collaboration between the Government and non-Government sector to realise the full potential of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy 2013, in the government run anganwadis. _DSC0150   Click here to view the entire seminar, in pictures.

10 essential facts you need to know about Karnataka’s Math movement.

Did you know that the state of Karnataka has come up with an incredible antidote to the drudgery of learning math in the classroom. To this end, the state government has started Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) – a one of its kind math movement which is currently underway in the state and is making math fun, interesting and stimulating enough for both students as well as teachers. Here are a few interesting facts about this silent movement that is influencing the way math is taught in government schools…

Read on to find your way to the movement:

1. The game of numbers
Ganitha Kalika Andolana, is set to benefit 3 lakh children in classes 4 and 5 across 7520 schools in the six districts of the Hyderabad Karnataka Region.

2. More power to the exponents
Karnataka’s math movement is one of its kind public-private partnership (PPP) between the state government and Akshara Foundation, a non-profit.

3. Factoring the lowest common denominator
The math movement is currently on in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region of the statewhere development indices are consistently low. The six districts of Hyderabad Karnataka Region are considered most educationally backward and the region is conferred with special status in the state under Article 371J of the Constitution.

4. Weapons of math instruction
The math movement is backed with attractive, well researched teaching and learning material (TLM), math videos, pop-culture posters and teacher manuals in Kannada, Urdu and English. Designed with flair and care, these can tempt even an adult maths-phobe to give Math a shot. Brightly coloured counters, beads, dices, clocks, plastic currency, miniature weighing scale, exciting videos and much more – all of it is certainly giving math learning a new dimension.

5. Keeping a count
Ganitha Kalika Andolana is also supported by an Interactive Voice Response (IVRS) facility. Share real time data on the usage of math teaching aids, voice your concerns and make the movement a success – all of this just by making one call.

6. Grammy sensation
Grammy award winner Ricky Kej has composed a catchy math anthem in both Kannada and English for the math movement. Also available for download as a song and phone ringtone, the anthem is already a hit with both students and teachers.

7. License to common creativity
Not in Karnataka but still want to use all teaching resources? As partner to the math movement, Akshara Foundation has made all the resources freely available under the Creative Commons License. Training manuals, math videos, concept cards – all of them just a click away. Go download!

8. Keep it safe – part of the equation
The state government has left no stone unturned to ensure that while the teaching and learning material is child friendly it is also non-toxic and completely safe to be used by children. All the teaching aids are certified to be non-toxic by National Referral Center for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI).

9. Trained to score
This silent math movement is certainly stepping up the game for teachers. Nearly 8000 teachers are being trained in math teaching methodology, understanding the key principal and being motivated enough to achieve the ultimate goal. After all, inspired students require inspired teachers.

10. Math matters
And if you are wondering whether all this will really improve numeracy levels of children in the state, then stay tuned to hear more about Ganitha Kalika Andolana – Karnataka’s math movement where a third party appointed by SSA and DSERT will assess and analyse the impact of this effort.

So add these all up, get inspired and join the movement.

Check out some cool ways in which we are deconstructing Math for kids.


Did you know that only 25.3% of children in class III can do two digit subtraction or that the percentage of children in class II who still cannot recognise numbers up to 9 has increased from 11.3% in 2009 to 19.5% in 2014. The numbers revealed by Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014, released in January, this year, clearly states that Math learning levels in the country continue to be a serious and major cause of concern.

Well, this was big news that went nearly unnoticed. To draw attention to this and remove the bite out of Math, we at Akshara Foundation have meme-fied the big news and piggy backed on the cultural phenomena that is Bollywood. #MathinIndia is what we call it. We have couched the common fears surrounding Math with catchy dialogues by much loved Bollywood characters, hoping to engage a wider and bigger audience into the conversation around the education of our children.

A pan-India social awareness and advocacy project, #MathinIndia, is a conversation starter initiated to sensitise a larger audience on the issue of low learning levels among children about Math in the country. After all, for Make in India, we have to think of #MathinIndia.

So let’s take stock, kick the shibboleths surrounding Math and build up #MathinIndia.



Set to tune by Grammy winner Ricky Kej, Math Magic revels in the joy of numbers and enthuses our young towards the necessity of math. So get started, include the song as part of math learning for your kid and watch the fun. You can play this cool ditty anywhere – in the car while travelling, listen to it during playtime, set it as your mobile ringtone or even dance to it during math lesson. Available in English and Kannada, we bet, you and your child will love it!

ricky 1

You can download the songs here:   https://soundcloud.com/akshara-foundation/sets/math-magic-songs

And the ringtones, from here: https://soundcloud.com/akshara-foundation/sets/math-ringtones


A set of 10 math concept cards weave together language and math in daily situations, bringing math out of the abstract and into the lived reality of the child. The concept cards carry a story and an activity, based upon students’ earlier knowledge and come in handy as a tool to introduce new math concepts to children. Questions on the reverse side of each Concept Card serve as a starting point for discussion and enable children to solve problems with their peers. The Concept Cards provide a ready list of relevant Maths vocabulary for some of the major concepts.


The math movement has just begun.

Join us in making 3 lac kids excel in numeracy skills.

Dear Akshara Supporter,

On June 23, 2015, Akshara Foundation and the Government of Karnataka together launched an innovative programme – Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA), to teach math to children in grades 4 and 5. This ambitious programme, through a series of interventions, aims to bring about higher learning levels in terms of numeracy skills in the six districts of Gulbarga, Bidar, Raichur, Bellary, Koppal and Yadgir.

Collectively these six districts form the Hyderabad Karnataka Region which is also the second largest arid region in India. Over the years, all measured human development indices are extremely poor in this region and reported figures show that these districts are at the bottom in the state of Karnataka in terms of health and education.

It is, in this needy region that the state government and Akshara Foundation decided to launch GKA. Over the next two years, the programme will build capacity at the local level for teaching math; equip teachers in government primary schools with all the tools required to transact better in their classrooms and the expectation is that math learning levels in children will improve significantly.

However, GKA is not only about our commitment towards a better future of our children. What we need to ask ourselves is – Is it enough for just the government and a NGO to work together to improve things or does everyone have a role to play? Akshara Foundation has chosen the term Andolana which loosely translates into ‘movement’ and we at Akshara believe there is a role for each one of us to play and make a small difference in bringing quality learning to the children of our state and country.

We believe that the time has come for all of us to recognise the gravity of our education problem and do our little bit to make the future better for our children and one way to do this is by improving the quality of education for our children. It’s time for each one of us to take a stand on the education of our children and turn it into a mass conversation.

Your support is critical because we now have an opportunity to break down the barriers to education which many children face. We need your voice too.

Please join the movement. Together we will make every child in school and learning well a reality.



My first visit to a government school in rural India.

Seeing the schools in Kushtagi and Mundargi was the favourite part of my time with Akshara. Our school visits were unannounced, like the house visits, so we were able to see a real school day in progress, and Akshara was able to check on the students’ progress.

Another reason Akshara came to the schools was to see how, if at all, classrooms were utilising their GKA Kits. These kits contain educational resources for mathematics and English classes, such as counting mats and blocks and conversation sheets, that seem as if they should be standard in every classroom – especially the math tools. These are tools that helped me, as a younger student, visualise operations like addition and subtraction. They helped me learn when I was starting my primary education, so it made me optimistic to see the students in Mundargi and Kushtagi using the same tools so effectively.

When we initially arrived at the schools, the first thing that I noticed was the resourcefulness. The same resourcefulness that I saw in the residential areas is found in schools; class bells are made from small hammers tied to thick metal trays, small pillows are attached to blackboards by string to create erasers. Making do with what you have is a concept that has grown increasingly rare in countries like the U.S. and big cities, where shortage of resources is rarely felt.

Classroom copy

One area where this scarcity is not felt, however, is in style. By this, I mean the uniforms and book bags each student was equipped with, provided by the state government. Regardless of the poverty they encountered at home, every young student was clad in a blue and white uniform.

In the United States, most state-run school systems do not have uniforms, instead opting to set general dress codes (which are usually just lists of ‘do not’s, for example: girls, do not wear skirts or shorts more than four inches above the knee in length. Boys, do not wear your hair long … or shorts more than four inches above the knee). However, in private schools, like the one I attend, uniforms are standard. Most of us private school students love to hate the uniforms impressed upon us by the school administration because we have plenty of our own, more comfortable, clothes that we would much rather wear.

Despite this scarcity, these students thrive when given the opportunity. The bright (and adorable) students in the primary schools of Mundargi and Kushtagi share an enthusiasm for learning and a competitive spirit that shined through the dimly-lit classrooms when the Akshara team and I arrived.

Students copy

Whenever a math problem would be presented to the class, the children would rush to open their notebooks and solve the problem first, handing over their work for checking as soon as they finished. In the event a student was wrong, they would just as quickly start working the problem again. When a passage in English was to be read, virtually every student wanted to show us their ability to read and write in English, a refreshing difference from the culture of primary schools in America, where conformity is too-often valued over exceptionality.

To feed into students’ eagerness and curiosity, Akshara has set up libraries both in classrooms and local tea shops. Each library is stocked with age-appropriate books in both Kannada and English, to encourage students to expand their familiarity with both their local language and one more widely spoken.

I visited the villages on the right day because I was present for the inauguration of one such library, an event that attracted the Gram Panchayat of the village, as well as parents and students to the small café. Each person present was given a few books to put in the library, so no one was left out of the celebration. The concept of tea shop libraries is, I think, brilliant; the availability of books in both tea shops and schools expands opportunities to read for both students and parents and encourages parents to read with their children.


These visits to Mundargi and Kushtagi showed me a side of life I could never have imagined. They made me thankful for my plentiful life in the United States and optimistic about India’s future. India is a complex country with a variety of cultures and traditions. To lead in tomorrow’s world, it needs something or someone to help it achieve its vast potential – a good education is that something and Akshara is that someone.

– Ajay Dayal

Beautiful. Warm. Resourceful. My first visit to rural India.

No American visiting India for the first time really knows what to expect. The India that one visualises from the descriptions of travel websites, friends, and relatives is one of stark contrasts between clean and polluted, modernity and tradition, rich and poor.

So, before I came to India, I didn’t know what to expect. My name is Ajay and I am an Indian-American high school student on his first visit to India. On this trip, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to join the Akshara Foundation on visits to the villages of Mundargi and Kushtagi in north Karnataka.

The rides to the villages were long and bumpy on roads that varied in levels of maintenance. For much of the ride, I had my left hand firmly grasped around the ceiling handles of our SUV and my eyes glued to the window, seeing life in a rural area for the first time.

The countryside can be very beautiful. Agricultural fields cover the sandy landscape with green crops and bright yellow carpets of sunflowers. These fields seem to stretch forever, only briefly interrupted by the villages they sustain.
The villages have their own beauty, with the vivid colours painted on the walls of homes and local shops. Buildings are constructed into small, but pleasant and reliable, structures from the materials readily available, such as wood and mud brick, showing the resourcefulness of these poor communities.

The members of these communities were warm and welcoming to us, opening their home to us in an instant. I’ve never been a big tea or coffee drinker – I’m fairly energetic on my own, without caffeine but by the end of the two days I was in rural Karnataka, I was converted.

Everywhere we went, either tea or coffee was generously offered (and how can you pass up South Indian coffee?). The beverages not only literally warmed my mouth (I think I actually burned my tongue on the first day – helpful tip: when drinking a hot liquid, don’t keep it in your mouth in hopes of it somehow cooling down), but also, metaphorically, my heart; despite their daily struggle for food and water, these villagers offered me tea/coffee and biscuits without hesitation.
However, these same villagers, the parents of the children we visited in local schools, did not seem to understand the full importance of their children’s education. During their house visits, Akshara conferences with the parents about the importance of education and convinces families of why they should be involved in their children’s education.
When basic necessities are scarce, it is understandable that parents can find it difficult to prioritise homework over harvesting. But a good education is a necessity. Certainly not of the immediacy of food or clean water for basic survival, but education is a necessary investment we make today to ensure that these children do not have to worry about things, like food shortages, in the future.

In the United States, parents are, unfortunately, also often distanced from their children’s education. Some parents work too much to be able to find time to monitor their child’s learning. Others simply can’t be bothered. Either way, the effects on the child’s education are the same: the parents’ lack of involvement is an impediment.

While in both America and India, parental involvement is generally directly correlated to income level, the difference is that in America, the trade off is rarely – if ever – between survival and education. Americans, in general, have more than enough to survive.

The young students in Mundargi and Kushtagi dream of becoming teachers, doctors, engineers – not farmers or labourers that struggle to get by. This is why it is important not only for the students to have an education available to them in school, but also for the parents to support their children’s quest to build a better life for themselves and, eventually, the villages they come from.

And this is why Akshara’s work is so essential. By building relationships with the communities in which they work, Akshara is able to make meaningful change at the deepest, most fundamental, levels. They invest time and effort into providing an education to children today, and changing attitudes and mindsets to ensure the next generation will have an education tomorrow.

– Ajay Dayal

The GlobalGiving Photo Contest 2015


We’re really excited! Two of our photographs have been shortlisted as finalists for the GlobalGiving Photo Contest ’15.

GlobalGiving is the largest global crowdfunding community for nonprofits and Akshara has been associated with them for a while now.

Help us win by VOTING for both our shortlists, and in turn, become a Ganitha Kalika Andolana or #GKAMathMovement supporter.

The prize money will go towards our math programme to aid better learning among children in government schools across Karnataka and help them realise that math can be fun too.


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You will receive an email asking you to confirm your VOTE.
Please follow the instructions to confirm the vote, else it will not be counted.

Voting deadline: 9:30pm on 7th August ‘15

Do spread the word to as many people as you can; every vote gets us nearer to our goal.

A big thank you in advance from all of us at Akshara Foundation for doing your bit for the #GKAMathMovement.