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The GlobalGiving Photo Contest 2015

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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.

HOW TO VOTE:

1. CLICK ON THE PHOTOS BELOW
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2. VOTE FOR THEM

3. RECONFIRM YOUR VOTE

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. 

ROBO-MANIA IS SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE.

I was not conducting any formal classes for the 3rd and 4th standard kids. But I did allow them to come fiddle around every now and then…

Most of the time I had to come up with excuses, telling them that they could use the Robotics lab when they came to the 5th standard. Because that’s how the Robotics Programme is structured.

Today I reached the lab very early. A few 3rd standard kids had also come as early. They requested me to allow them to build something. Since there were only three students and ample time before class, I asked them to sit together at one computer.

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At the most, I knew I might have to reinstall some software. And so I just observed them. They confidently turned on the computer and were trying to open the LEGO WeDo software… but they did not know that all it took was a double click of the icon.

I showed them how to do a double click by tapping on the bench. They opened the software and without any further guidance, reached the robot building guidelines page. They chose to do the first Robot on the list.

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After a few trials and errors, they finished building the Robot. Their faces reflected the sheer joy they felt…
So again, these kids are proving me wrong, sending the message loud and clear, that their capacity is beyond my imagination.

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The Robotics Programme has so far been restricted only to the children of standard V and above. Today’s amazing incident has prompted me to begin formal classes for the 3rd and 4th standard children too.

– Sridhar P.

Sridhar heads our robotics programme in the government schools and ever so often has more than one inspirational anecdote or two.

I am afraid a lot can happen if I start using the big white Math Box.

Sport is fun, science is nerdy, math is tough. That’s the stuff of legends on which I have been brought up on.

For 30 years now, this legend has stayed with me and in many ways I have nursed it – let it grow and insidiously seep into my pores. It’s only a year ago that I experienced a slight shift in the status quo.

Thanks to my work with a non-profit Akshara Foundation and Ganitha Kalika Andolana – a programme aimed at breaking barriers to math learning and making it more fun by using creative teaching aids. All this and much more, put together in a big white math box.

Something tells me that I can approach math differently by using this math box. That math can happen to anyone, anytime and at any age – including a chronic `I hate math’ person like me. A lot can happen if I re-visit the subject, using the big white math box…

I may actually be able to count sheep and sleep like a baby.

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Make friends with nerds, see them in a positive light.

The-Nerd-Side



Have my Pi and eat it too.

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Even cook my pie to perfection.
Great recipes always involve right measurements.

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Become an actuary, insurance underwriter, stockbroker, an economist and not write this.

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Increase my chances of finding the perfect partner. After all according to Hannah Fry, finding the right mate is nothing but mathematics of love.



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Indulge in some form of exercise without getting sweaty. I am told doing math, stimulates and exercises the prefrontal cortex in one’s brain.

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For once there will be no shades of grey…it’s all black or white, right or wrong. Not to forget 50 is just a number.

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I can calculate the odds of quitting smoking.

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I may finally think of making truce with math and bury the hatchet. High Five!

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Wondering if all this can really be possible by using a big white math box?

Well, do not just take my word for it. Go find out more for yourself at www.akshara.org.in

To keep in touch, do join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

All the images used are for non commercial, social-good purpose. They are sourced from various online resources and can not be credited to Akshara Foundation.

CISCO makes Math fun.

We recently pulled out all the contents of Ganitha Kalika Andolana’s big White Box for you. It has a beaded rope, tape, blocks, foamed goodies, measuring tools, and weighing balance etc. In a nutshell, everything a child needs to understand every Math concept in his/her syllabus.

But explaining each concept is no nutshell of a job. It’s creative, challenging, easy and tough, all at the same time. Which is why, we decided to come up with as many ways as possible for the teacher to use as ready reckoners, while teaching Math.

And what made it better, our friends at CISCO Bangalore, decided to huddle together one day and brainstorm for us. Eager yet cautious faces greeted our entire team, as we began the fun afternoon. The sheer magnanimity of the things being pulled out of the box seemed to deter them at first.

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But once they got the hang of the entire kit, the place was abuzz. The entire group was divided into three large groups. Team A had to come up with pictorial representations for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and number counting using the abacus, beaded rope and base ten blocks. Team B got Fractions and Decimals, while Team C tackled Geometry.

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What followed was a few hours of excited squeals, quiet pondering, hushed discussions and noisy exclamations. Each team further divided themselves, so that they could come up with as many representative options as possible.

“It’s the most interactive session we have ever had” said Blessie, the chirpy and ever helpful team member of the CISCO volunteer team. “But a lot of the credit also goes to our leadership team. They push us a lot, “ she added without being able to pry her eyes away from the coloured blocks.

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It was amazing to see how 30 odd adults became a class of 30 in no time at all. While one team was busy dunking the foam strips in water and having fun, another was busy experimenting with stick figures. And yet another team was deep in discussion, ensuring theirs was the best :)

And the most exciting part for us was the fact that we actually got a great number of options to choose from, at the end!

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Soujanya, who has been interning for around 5 months was a little intimidated with the colourful yet unknown things overflowing from the white box. “It took us a while to get the hang of how different things are used, but on the whole, very interesting.” And so she continued adding the finishing touches to her group’s presentation.

A brainstorming session of this kind was an excellent way for this enthusiastic bunch to also experience the Math kit first hand. And a lot of them actually realised how challenging it is, to think at a 4th grade child’s level.

Sachin, who has taught in government schools before, confirms that a pictorial way is the most effective method of retention. He adds, “This sort of system with a pictorial representation of concepts helps schools where teachers are fewer in number, and they multitask. Many of these concepts can also help the kids directly.”

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As the session drew to a close, the teams got busy documenting their ideas.The last team that remained was a particularly interesting one. Khyati from that team, who has been with CISCO for a couple of years now, is from a government school herself.

Her excitement with an assignment like this is definitely above anyone else’s. While she was one of the lucky few to actually get a scholarship from Udyan Care, many don’t get that luxury. “Which is why, I am a part of the volunteer group. I want to give back to schools like mine, where getting a sound education is difficult.”

Reasons big or small, it was heartening to see so many people come together for the sake of education. And we thank them all for their time and effort in helping us take that one step ahead. Looking forward to many more brainstorming sessions. :)

You can see how the entire afternoon spanned out here.

Shipped: 702 boxes of fun.

The last few days have been really exciting for all of us at Akshara.
The first batch of our Ganitha Kalika Andolana kits, 702 of them to be precise, were successfully shipped and delivered. 1 Every success story comes with its share of funny anecdotes and drama.
So does ours, starting with the clouds opening up and showering us, to the mail van getting lost to finally getting stuck under a few branches. 2Finally the bright red van found us. How? Well, they were passing by a place with white and blue boxes spilling out, and screeched to a halt. 3 Set back by a couple of hours, we got to work. A loading line as efficient as ours took just under an hour to load all boxes in.
Beat that! 4 Our enthusiasm and excitement even got to the friendly folks from the post office. So much so that the officer-in-charge joined our well-oiled belt of hands as well. Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 11.38.49 pm And there we were, just over an hour later, closing the doors with one resounding bolt. And off they were, all 702 kits of the #GKAMathMovement, ready to spread the joy of Math to children. 5 The kits have reached their destinations and will be distributed to the schools soon.


View the entire album here.


Music courtesy: CrystalFissure. Used for non-commercial purposes only.

THE BIG WHITE BOX.

Our exhilaration and adrenaline highs have been official for a while now. Akshara Foundation is going to change the way 300,000 children learn Math this academic year with the #GKAMathMovement.

This movement, in collaboration with the state government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan formally goes by the name Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA). It’s aimed at improving Math levels in over 7500 schools across six districts in Karnataka.

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But everyone has one question.
HOW? By teaching kids? A new curriculum? A calculator for each child?
Simple. With one big white box.

But it’s been no simple task coming to this answer.
This is a result of years of trials and errors, pilots and their consequential success.

Ashok Kamath, chairman of Akshara Foundation says, “When we approached the state government with our request for GKA in 2013, we were armed with results from our efforts in Hoskote, Kushtagi and Mundargi Blocks – about 575 schools – where we realised a significant improvement in math learning proficiencies in children.”
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And thus the Ganitha Kalika Andolana or #GKAMathMovement came into being. The big white box will now be used to help children across the state.

The kit consists of teaching-learning materials (TLMs) that demystify Mathematics and sets it out in simple terms, teacher-training and teacher-support for effective instruction. What is more, the GKA methodology is compatible with the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 guidelines and the class textbooks.
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You need to be there to feel that excitement when that big white box is opened up in each classroom. The children already have their favourites picked out. While one reaches for the soft squares that will help him with fractions, another reaches out for his all time favourite, the abacus and its colourful counterparts. Within minutes the entire kit is in play all across the classroom.
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With increasing curiosity about the #GKAMathMovement, here’s a sneak peek into the heroes that make up our Math kit.

1. The ever-dependable abacus

These red, yellow, blue and green hued discs help children add and subtract in a systematic yet interesting way. While the vivid colours retain their attention span, the excitement of spinning around a disc or two with their friends brings out quite a few chuckles.
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      2. Block of buddies

Following the lines of the abacus, we also have the same hued square counters as an alternative to help them add and subtract. Yellow blocks are meant for the units’ place, blue for tens’, green for hundreds’ and red for the thousands’ place.
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3. Play money

Now which kid doesn’t love playing ‘house’ or ‘to-the-market’? If you thought kitchen toys and wax fruit made their eyes sparkle, imagine what paper money does to them.

The paper money in our kit helps children relate to real-life problems and apply it while solving a problem. It’s almost like the real thing, which is very exciting for them.
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4. Cushy Counters

Give them a dip in water and they stick to any surface. For days. No really. These foam squares and fraction strips help children with fractions and decimals.
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5. Weighing scale and beakers

A weighing scale, some beakers and water provide a lot of entertainment for children as they discover for themselves whether 250ml is heavier than 150ml and how water can be used to measure the weight of a beaker. For many this is a real-life situation, as their parents run or work in vegetable or grocery shops.
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6. Red and white counting system

Learning Math can be easy. And the red and white beaded rope is proof of this. Add a bunch of clothes clips and your tool is ready. One can add, subtract and even multiply using this colourful and very handy device.
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Apart from these, a measuring tape, a bag of coins, a place value mat and a clock among others also make it to each kit.

Want to see exactly how each unit can be used? Catch our Math videos here!

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 has revealed that only 20.1 percent of class 5 students in government schools in Karnataka can do simple division.
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In the words of Ashok Kamath, “Through this programme we are committed towards a problem solving approach to Mathematics teaching and learning outcomes, improved pedagogy, assessments, training and capacity building of teachers. We also want to ensure quality access to education in government schools, and Ganitha Kalika Andolana is a step forward in that direction.”

Can’t wait to get a kit for your kids now? Get in touch with Idek already!

IN AND OUT OF CLASS – the change makers at IISc Alumni Global Conference 2015.

The recently concluded IISc Alumni Global Conference, Bangalore, was a celebration of coming together, reliving old times, reconnecting with friends and of taking a forward look at how the alumni could transform lives.

IISc alums, who at one point pursued lucrative career options or left India to achieve success abroad, are now helping poor students in the country. The meet brought together several distinguished people to deepen the collective understanding of the ways and measures to make learning a better prospect.

It also put the spotlight on a versatile global community of IISc alums who are helping communities in the country to learn better.

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Nurture the School that Nurtured You (NSNY), a programme started by the IISc Alumni Association of North America (AANA), has adopted 15 schools in different parts of the country and is working towards making learning a better prospect. Prof Arkal Shenoy, nuclear scientist and president of IISc AANA, was among the first to sponsor a programme in a government school in Ujire about a month ago.

Nasa scientist of Mars Curiosity fame, Dr Gajanana Birur had adopted schools near his home town Birur in Chikmaglur district 10 years ago. He has also adopted a government school in Bovipalya near Rajajinagar in Bengaluru. “It has only 45 students as the area now has developed from when I saw it decades ago and parents prefer private English schools. I want this school to become a symbol of desire,” said Dr. Gajanana.

It is here through his own story and that of the children at Viveknagar Government School, that Sridhar, who is in-charge of Akshara Robotics Lab, talked about creating value and addressing questions that are both urgent and daunting.

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Robotics labs in schools where almost exclusively the children of poor study, are unheard of. Into this, Akshara brought in the idea of structured creativity in a lab under someone who could deal with robots and children, knowing the difference.

It is here for these kids our very own Sridhar, an IISc alumni, found it worth his while to junk his cushy job and instead work in an atmosphere where he has to stack carton-boxes over one another to place his laptop since there is no table of proper height. Together, school children and Sridhar, create enough enthusiasm for the robotics classes to become a craze where students vie with each other to take a seat, and hands go up with lightning speed when ‘robotics’ sir’ asks a question.

A story of hope and inclusivity – also a story of the way forward. This is a story that needs to be told, to be shared to be narrated by each one of us… and we are happy we had the opportunity to share it at the IISc Alumni Global Conference, 2015. It’s just a matter of time before we see a social change brought about by the difference makers who believe in their own potential and remove barriers to create a more inclusive world.

Thank you, IISc for giving us Sridhar.

N.B. – Two weeks ago, inspired by the way Sridhar has introduced government school kids to robotics, Dr Gajanana Birur has set up a robotics lab at an education centre run by social activists in Chettanahalli, a small village between Birur and Tarikere. In his own words – “I have now realised that robotics helps imbibe a spirit of curiosity and I have seen it work through the work of another alumni, who is working with a school in Bengaluru.”

Read more @ http://bit.ly/1C8YG4g

Authored by writer@educationjams

Ganitha Kalika Andolana – the Math movement, is now LIVE.

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In a first, Karnataka State Government rolls out Ganitha Kalika Andolana in collaboration with Akshara Foundation.

June 23, 2015: The Karnataka State Government in collaboration with Akshara Foundation, today rolled out Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) – a program to improve numeracy skills and facilitate classroom teaching of Mathematics among students in Government primary schools. Starting with all the schools in the Hyderabad Karnataka Region, the state government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Akshara Foundation to implement GKA. The programme is financially supported by Hyderabad Karnataka Area Development Board (HKADB) through Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

The two-year plan includes provision of Akshara Ganitha teaching and learning material, capacity building of resource persons and teachers and assessment of children’s learning outcomes. The programme will focus on 4th and 5th standard students to improve proficiency in Mathematics in a child-centric manner. “This is a leap forward towards the state government’s commitment to provide quality education to students especially in the rural areas. The program is an innovative way to improve learning in Mathematics,” said Dr. Qamarul Islam, Chairman, Hyderabad Karnataka Area Development Board and Hon. Minister for Municipal Administration & Minority Affairs.

“GKA will be a model learning programme to make the children of Hyderabad-Karnataka Region, lead in numeracy skills. The program has been rolled out in six districts of Hyderabad-Karnataka region in collaboration with Akshara Foundation and utilizing the assistance from Hyderabad-Karnataka Development Board,” he added.

The partnership with Akshara Foundation is one of the first that the state Government has entered into in the spirit of public-private partnerships. The comprehensive teaching methodology envisaged in GKA program is compliant with the guidelines prescribed by the National Curriculum Framework 2005 and supports the textbooks and workbooks designed by the Karnataka Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT).

“The Annual Status of Education Report 2014 (ASER 2014) has revealed that only 20.1 percent of 5th standard students in government schools in Karnataka can do simple division. Ganitha Kalika Andolana will help improve the poor Math proficiency levels among children and work towards quality education for all,” said Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation.

Akshara Foundation and the State Government have collaborated over the past decade on many successful primary education initiatives.

About GKA: Ganitha Kalika Andolana is a model support programme aimed at bridging learning gaps in math among children in standard four and five by using an activity based creative approach and peer learning rather than rote application of mathematical concepts. The programme also aims to build significant math capacity among teachers in the state.

About HKADB: The Hyderabad-Karnataka Area Development Board looks at the overall development of the region which has been granted special status under Article 371 (J) of the Constitution by the Union government. The region constitutes of the districts of Gulbarga, Yadgiri, Raichur, Koppala, Bellary and Bidar.. These districts are among the most backward regions of the country with Human Development Indices (HDI) below the sub-Saharan levels.

About SSA: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is Government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right. SSA is being implemented in partnership with State Governments to cover the entire country.

About Akshara Foundation: Akshara Foundation was set up with a mission to ensure Every Child in School and Learning Well. We believe that quality education is the undeniable right of every child and children should not be deprived of it just because they do not have access to it or the resources to realise their dreams.

Visit: www.akshara.org.in Media Contact: payal@akshara.org.in

 

gka kannada press release

Making Math interesting – the Akshara Ganitha kit

“I can Touch and Feel What I am Doing”

Ramesh is in class 4 at the Government Kannada Lower Primary School, Chandragir, Kushtagi Block. He is the eldest son of his parents and they have ambitions for him. Both his mother and father are daily wage labourers who have never been to school. It is a hard life of toil and they want Ramesh to be free of the burden and the drudgery – working and earning just enough for the day, with no prospects of a future. They want their son to learn and aspire to a higher economic and social status, become an officer when he grows up.

Ramesh is an average student in all subjects and particularly slow in Mathematics. The concepts he was being taught in class were beyond him, he could not decipher any of it. Ranganath is a committed class teacher, stymied till now by the lack of resource material. The textbook is simply no solution for difficult problems. “But the Akshara Ganitha kit provided by Akshara Foundation has helped me teach Ramesh and now he is able to grasp all the concepts,” says Ranganath. “This kit is especially useful for rural children. As a Mathematics teacher I am very happy now to be teaching the subject to my students. I can assure you that all my students, the entire lot of them, are familiar with the concepts and can do sums with ease.”

Says Ramesh, “I became interested in learning Mathematics because the kit is colourful. I can touch and feel what I am doing. I am comfortable with all the concepts. I understand them. Every day I do the sums my Mathematics teacher gives me correctly. My parents are happy to see this. I will become a doctor,” he concludes, confidence bouncing back with his new-found problem-solving capacity. Ramesh’s parents, avid for any clear sign of hope, are overjoyed. The progress of their eldest son is a matter close to their heart.

This was just the beginning. Ever since, we at Akshara Foundation have been gearing up to help many-a-Ramesh, one kit at a time. Stay tuned for our biggest update yet, with the #GKAMathMovement.

Without numbers, there’s nothing you can do.

Mathematics could be called the sum of life. A plus here, a minus there. Some things augmenting manifold when multiplication takes over, some reducing to irreducible limits, as in the calamity of division. In India it is often referred to as a ‘killer’ subject in schools, as R. Ramanujam says in his research paper, Mathematics Education in India – An Overview. He goes on to say that studies showed that a large number of children were failing or dropping out before completing elementary school because they could not cope with the demands of the curriculum.

It is not uncommon elsewhere in the world either, the dread that Mathematics evokes. The famous mathematician, Shakuntala Devi, India’s own ‘math evangelist’ as she was called, said, “I was performing at a New Jersey high school and I asked a class of 2000 students, ‘How many of you love Mathematics?’ Only one hand went up. And that was the hand of the Maths teacher.”

Shakuntala_Devi

But without Mathematics there can be no life and living as we know it. For children, it is an integral part of the narrative of growing up. It relates to things they do in the real world every day. It helps them count change at the vegetable shop or add up numbers on their report card; it helps them read time from the dial of a clock or keep track of cricket scores. It helps them with what has been earned and what has been lost.

Mathematics is all about finding correct solutions to problems. Accuracy is key. It cannot be one more or one less. For, Mathematics is never known to go wrong.

Shakuntala Devi said, “Without Maths, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is Maths. Everything around you is numbers.” Science, technology, engineering, finance, music, art – all that makes the world go around – draw sustenance from it.

Much of it would come to a standstill without its pervasive reach and use. Not in these higher latitudes alone that Mathematics is needed. Its calculations figure in every vocation. Be it in a tailoring unit or carpentry workshop, a bakery, a grocery store or retail establishment, Mathematics is that essential foundation on which the everyday builds. It is the tool for all those innumerable daily transactions. For all the certainties of life.

Image source: Wikipedia

Authored by Lakshmi Mohan for #GKAMathMovemnt