The Odisha Chapter Begins 

Stepping into Odisha is an ambitious outreach for Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA). Balangir and Rayagada, the programme’s terrain, are two backward districts where learning indicators are not so strong.

Setting the course for GKA’s Odisha chapter was the Master Resource Persons’ (MRPs) training that Akshara conducted for 50 teachers from the two districts. They gathered in sylvan Chikkaballapur outside Bangalore, determined to pursue the training as a teaching-learning opportunity.



They are GKA’s MRPs who, as master disseminators, will cascade the training in batches to the 4600 teachers of Balangir and Rayagada. Surya Narayan Mishra, Deputy Director, Planning and Training, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), hand-picked them from amongst the best and brightest in the districts. They are Mathematics teachers, youngish, enterprising, motivated, and with an open mind. Most of them have a BSc and quite a few an MSc with Mathematics as their specialisation.

Akshara’s Master Trainer those five intensive days was a seasoned veteran – her speciality, Mathematics, training, engagement. The teachers were near-perfect trainees, diligent as students. By Day 2, they had a deeper sense of the value chain they could create in their classrooms when they took GKA to 1,98,000 children.



The training content contained the GKA sweep. The CRA Cycle – C for concrete, the teaching-learning materials (TLMs); R for representational, procedural clarity; A for abstract, the ultimate conclusions of Mathematics. The 5E Model of Learning – Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate. Group Learning Strategies, and concepts in the class 1-5 Mathematics syllabus.



The days went by in camaraderie, unlearning and learning, and a spirit of inquiry.In their feedback forms, teachers marked a vigorous Yes for parameters like: usefulness and effectiveness of the GKA TLM kit; group learning; and training content and design.



They felt they were privileged to be a select group that had mastered GKA’s teaching concepts and understood the importance of the Andolan, or movement, they could unleash and were ready to hit the ground as soon as they reached Odisha.

– Lakshmi Mohan 

Testing the level of math in children, the Gram Panchayat Way.

An entire academic year has just gone by after the grand launch of Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA), the innovative support programme rolled out in June 2015 by Akshara Foundation, in collaboration with the Karnataka State Government.

During the course of the year, the programme was implemented in six districts of the Hyderabad Karnataka region namely, Gulbarga, Koppal, Bellary, Raichur, Bidar and Yadgir. Around 8,000 teachers, 682 Government Resource Persons and 718 Cluster Resource Persons have been trained on the methodology, so that 300,000 children in 7,515 schools could benefit from this programme.

In an attempt to understand exactly how much the programe has benefitted the students and how much they have been exposed to it, Akshara Foundation was a proud facilitator of a one of its kind math competition for the children this summer.

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This competition was organised and spearheaded by the Gram Panchayats themselves. (A gram panchayat is the cornerstone of a local self-government organisation in India of the panchayati raj system at the village or small town level and has a sarpanch as its elected head – source: Wikipedia) Many villages come under a single Gram Panchayat. And Akshara identified around 250 such gram panchayats, spread across the 6 districts of GKA.

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Out the 250 identified Gram Panchayats, the team managed to conduct competitions in 216 of them.

Covering concepts on the Number System, Arithmetic Operations, Geometry and Measurement, the question papers were set by Akshara Foundation .

A total of 18,085 children showed up over the course of six weeks to participate in these competitions. This mammoth project involved around 2,000 youth volunteers and 20,000 odd parents, taking the ANDOLANA (meaning a Movement) to a whole new level. Many of the parents were exposed to the impact of interactive-based learning and in turn, the importance of math, for the first time.

So how does something like this work? Easier said than done. Akshara Foundation set each question paper with painstaking care, to cover all the major listed concepts equally. They were then couriered to each Gram Panchayat in sealed envelopes.

The Gram panchayat members would then begin the competition by opening the sealed envelopes on the day of the competition, in front of everyone. All the participants were given a paper each, and had to solve all the questions within the given time. Our youth volunteers would then huddle in a room and and correct the papers themselves, once all the papers were collected from the children.

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Once done, the results were announced in a grand closing ceremony, where the child who bagged the 1st prize was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 1000/-, Rs. 600/- was awarded as the 2nd prize and Rs. 400/- as the 3rd prize.

All this (excluding the setting of the paper) took place over the course of a few hours, right in front of everyone. There were no hidden rules or blanks left to fill in by the unassuming audience.

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All this sounds like a picture perfect new method of assessing children, but how did the children actually fare?

Of the 18,085 children who were tested (4th standard, 5th standard and 6th standard), the overall performance of those in the 5th standard was found to be relatively better, with a marginal increase in the percentage of students in high grades when compared with the performance of those in the 4th and 6th standard.

Some stark figures that need to be spoken about: 72.3% of the children tested could perform 4-digit addition, but when it came to 4-digit subtraction and multiplication, only 55.6% and 30.9% of them could manage it.

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While 23.8% children could do 4-digit division, only 17.2% children could solve division problems conveyed through a practical scenario.

Overall, the children of Raichur and Yadagiri districts scored the highest (14% and 18% scored above 75% respectively). Bellary and Kalburgi districts exhibited the lowest performance scores (where only 9% and 7% of the children scored above 75% respectively).

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The children’s performance, good or bad, has definitely started many a conversation amongst all the stakeholders. We are happy that this initiative has motivated the community to take a keen interest in their children’s education.

And to ensure this dialogue opens up in all the areas of Ganitha Kalika Andolana, Akshara Foundation will help organise around 400 more Gram Panchayat competitions, similar to these 216 over the course of the academic year.

Links to images and press clips:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aksharadotorg/sets/72157668273677140

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aksharadotorg/sets/72157668273810880

CELEBRATING six months of Ganitha Kalika Andolana

Akshara Foundation, in partnership with the Karnataka government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, launched a math programme called Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) in June 2015.

It aims to improve numeracy skills in over 300,000 students in 7520 Government primary schools across North Karnataka.

Six months of GKA are already behind us and we are happy to share that increasingly children in government primary schools are enjoying learning math.

We know because we hear from teachers, community leaders, volunteers and children. The achievements of this movement are many. And so are our supporters, like you.

Here’s a look at our journey so far…
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Do spread the word about this movement by sharing this video.

More power to the #GKAMathMovement. Enjoy!

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.

#MATHININDIA EDUCATION MEMES

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.

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MATH MAGIC – THE MATH SONG

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!

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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


MATH CONCEPT CARDS

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.

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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.

Sincerely,

k

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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. 

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.1Every 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.3Set 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!4Our 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 pmAnd 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.5The 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.