Introducing the Sahus to Building Blocks


The Sahus were on a train from Vishakhapatnam to Rayagada, out for a family function, a family of four – Pradeep Kumar Sahu is a businessman in Asansol; his wife, Padmavathi, a homemaker who also occasionally helps her husband at work; and their two sons, Durgaprasad (10) and Saiprasad (7), both students at the Delhi Public School (DPS), Asansol. Lipsa Bharati, Programme Manager, Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA), Akshara Foundation Odisha, happened to be on the same train and struck up a conversation with them. Akshara was testing Building Blocks at the time.

She introduced it to the two boys, in a bid to keep them engaged. Durgaprasad was more artistically inclined while Saiprasad was the math pro. Until that moment. Durgaprasad dived straight into a division sum in the App, though math is not his favourite subject. Lipsa observed that he enjoyed Building Blocks much more than Saiprasad, was able to do the sums one by one.

By the end of the ride, Durgaprasad said, “This is a better way of doing math, without all the tension it causes us.” For the few hours they were on the train, Durgaprasad was involved, taking on division with determination. He was amazed at the Fish in a Tank game – a Grade 3 concept. He had to distribute equally the nine purple-coloured fish swimming in the big tank to the three small tanks below. With all that to stimulate him, he exclaimed, “I had never thought of division in this way before.

The concept of division has suddenly become clear after the series of six games with Fish in a Tank. It’s really just equal distribution.” At that juncture, the final form of Building Blocks was still in the crucible, being moulded, and Lipsa could not give them the link just then, though the family was keen. Once Building Blocks was available on Google Play, the Akshara team got in touch with the Sahus who were only too excited to be able to download the app.

Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google LLC.

STARS OF HOPE – Impact of Progressive Communities on Learning

The Government Kannada Lower Primary School in Marasandahalli, Hosakote block, Bangalore Rural District, has not changed in all these years that Akshara has been working here. It looks like a little village abode even now, an overhang of foliage framing the veranda. Around 25-30 children, classes 1-5, poorly equipped as before, two teachers, and under-resourced.

In a small, half-lit classroom, one of only two in the school, teacher Shyam Shankar directs a Mathematics class for grades 4 and 5 with Akshara’s teaching-learning materials (TLMs) – the square counters, base ten blocks, fraction strips, decimal set and much else making for random choreography on the floor. Shyam Shankar would not have it any other way in his Mathematics class.

Akshara’s Mathematics programme, Akshara Ganitha, ended here two years ago. But this dedicated teacher, who took up Mathematics as his discipline midway into his 15-year career only because he was inspired by the programme, preserves its TLM kit with respect. “I use it every day. Absolutely,” he says.

It shows. Many of his students are achievers. In 2016-17, Chetan gained admission to class 6 in Navodaya and Monisha to Morarji . In 2017-18, Tanushree and Varshini made it to Navodaya. Not many children move meritoriously from government schools to quality-conscious Navodaya and Morarji schools for secondary stage education. The passage is arduous.

“They were able to score well because of the Mathematics coaching with Akshara’s TLMs,” says Shyam Shankar. “Children get a good foundation because of it. Their skills become stronger.”

In September 2016, Tanushree bagged the 1st prize and Varshini the 2nd in the Gram Panchayat Mathematics Contest Akshara Foundation held, in which the Marasandahalli school was one of the 9 participating schools. Close to 100 children from classes 4, 5 and 6 contested. Tanushree and Varshini had already crossed the threshold to bigger things in Navodaya, but represented their old school, holding aloft its flag of merit.

This is not the only banner flying high. As enlightened teachers, Shyam Shankar and his colleague know the value of engaging the community. Akshara’s community engagement team says, “There’s cooperation between the teachers and the people. Parents visit the school regularly to ask about the progress of their children. The teachers have the mobile numbers of all the parents. There’s trust between these two stakeholders.”

The team also acts as a catalyst, bringing together villagers, parents, teachers and students to sustain the momentum for education. In a progressive village like Marasandahalli, it is not hard to do. It has 483 people and a literacy rate of 60.80%, not too high, comparatively. The educational impetus, however, is strong in a village which has hardly any transport connectivity, and where the livelihoods are dairy, silkworm rearing and small-scale trade. “The important thing is the villagers have the enthusiasm to educate their children,” the team says.

Chetan, Monisha, Tanushree and Varshini are the new generation, their aspirational urge nurtured by a good government school, supportive teachers and an education-oriented community.

– Lakshmi Mohan for Akshara Foundation

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.”


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

Report card on CCE: Needs improvement

The Karnataka Secondary Education and Examination Board has adopted a new system of evaluating the learning curve of a child, starting this year. With positive and negative feedback pouring in from all corners, Merlin Francis takes a closer look at this model.


The record pass percentage of 81.82 in the SSLC exam this year is largely credited to the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation model. The CCE, as it is better known, was adopted by the Karnataka Secondary Education and Examination Board this year. But how has it fared? Not everyone gives it a thumbs-up. Experts hail it as a great idea whose implementation is the niggling issue.

Maya Menon, educationist, says, “The idea of CCE is excellent and was supposed to keep track of whether the child is learning. Formative assessment is important. However the way in which the DPI (Department of Public Instruction) implemented it this year leaves much to be desired.”

For instance, most teachers are not trained how to assess the child, she says. “Without being trained in the essence and spirit of CCE, we do not know if the improved pass percentage reflects actual learning at all. When done in an objective way, CCE keeps track of the child’s learning and takes action when improvement is required. However, fudging marks or simply giving high marks to the students does not indicate learning at all and is not beneficial to the child’s learning in the long run,” she said.

Niranjan Aradhya, Fellow for Child and Law, feels teachers need to be sensitized on CCE. “Teachers are used to the final examination model and focus on that. But this is an evaluation model and not examination. Evaluation is when you assess something, find out where the problem is and improve on it,” he said, adding this is when classroom transaction also improves and the child is not victimized for failure.

Anantha Narayana BC, principal of Good Shepherd School, says internal assessments are often misused. “No specific parameters are used while gauging these 20 marks and teachers are partial towards many students. They give full marks without thinking much. Children on the other hand are not very co-operative when these assessments are conducted.”

The teachers cannot be blamed entirely, he says. “There are so many students to assess and they end up throwing marks due to lack of time,” he says. “To a certain extent, it is unfair. Students sometimes get the marks they don’t deserve.” He claims this has lead to an overall improvement in performance this time as gaining 20 marks is comparatively simple.

MA Khan, principal of KK English School, believes achievement of children has drastically come down this year though the pass percentage has increased. “The DPI was not clear with most things. We got to know about the internal assessment in September when most children were focusing on their project,” he said. However, CCE is beneficial in that hidden talents of students are unleashed, like public speaking and drawing, he says.

Mohammad Mohsin, Commissioner, department of public instruction, says schools could not randomly give marks to students and had to maintain a record of how the child fared and where he or she had improved. “Regular, surprise and random inspections were done by our committee who even gave suggestions to the schools,” he says. The process will continue this year and complaints and suggestions are welcome, he says.

(With inputs from Alisha Deshmukh and Varuna Jeethender)

What is CCE:
Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation model was introduced first by the CBSE. It looks at a two-pronged way of assessing children: formative and summative. Formative tests comprise the student’s work at class and home, the student’s performance in oral tests and quizzes and the quality of the projects or assignments submitted by the child. Summative tests are the regular three-hour long exams conducted by the school and board. Twenty per cent of marks will be based on internal assessment, which will be the average of formative assessment done at four different levels, and 80% on board exams.

And the winners of our #MathinIndia Meme Contest are:

A couple of months ago, we highlighted the situation of #MathinIndia with some Bollywood-inspired memes.
Little did we expect what came next.

We were bombarded by spontaneous responses from many people, each giving us their own take of our posters or with a meme of their own.
Naturally, this inspired us to open it out as a CONTEST for one and all.


It goes without saying that we were flooded by many interesting memes. Which was the cause of a big problem – choosing the best.
After a lot of debates over many a coffee, we have our winners!

We finally used not three or five, but SEVEN of the most interesting entries we received for our next set of posters! 🙂


hawa hawai






We will touch base with each of you separately.

A big thank you to all those who participated. You not only made our cause huge, but also made it fun and exciting.

IF YOU missed out on making it to the top seven, fret not.
WE WOULD LOVE TO POSTERIZE YOUR MEME as a special gesture, for your personal use. All in the name of Math. Just reach out to us at

Continue spreading the word about our #MathinIndia Campaign. May the power of Math be far greater than the fear of it.  

Pic credits: All images have been sourced from public online sources (,,, solely for non-commercial and social good purpose. 


Dear Akshara Supporter,

15 years! Yes, we at Akshara Foundation just celebrated our 15th anniversary and so far it has been an incredible journey. What began as a small effort in the year 2000 by two people, gathered momentum over the years and has now fully accelerated into a movement, with 112 employees to ensure every child in school and learning well.

Through the ups and downs (and there have been enough of both) and over the years we have been able to impact the lives of over 10,00,000 children in government primary schools in the state of Karnataka with our library, Math and English programmes.

In doing so your support and collective belief that Akshara Foundation could and would reach new milestones has been a beacon of hope and a challenge we constantly strive to pursue with relentless zeal.

We are proud to have adhered to our core values and uncompromising resolve towards the cause. Winning the Namma Bengaluru Award further tells us that we now have a greater responsibility to change and shape the lives of many more children. We assure that in the days to come we will deliver more on this promise.

Thank you for being with us all these years. We absolutely could not have come this far without you nor can we take this extraordinary journey ahead without your help. Keep holding us to high standards as we continue our journey with real generosity of spirit, cause and action.


Ashok Kamath                                                               Kanchan Bannerjee

Chairman                                                                         Managing Trustee


At Akshara Foundation we are poised at a very interesting juncture – holding on to our core values while looking at newer ways to pursue our mission. The last three months have been spinning around like a carousel on speed with more than one reason for us to celebrate creativity, achievement, talent, service to society and passion towards the cause. Here are some special mentions…we are ever so proud to share.
Namma Bengaluru Award
namma bengaluru Akshara Foundation won the prestigious Namma Bengaluru Award 2014 in the Citizen Group category. The award acknowledged our contribution to generate sustainable and impactful improvements to the city and its residents.
HP’s Most Impactful Project
HP Social Award HP asked its employees to vote for the volunteer projects that made the biggest impact. Based on more than 16,000 votes, three projects from Bulgaria, Costa Rica and India were chosen as candidates for the Most Impactful Project award. Akshara Foundation won the Social Media Vote at HP’s Most Impactful Project contest. The award is worth USD 10000, and we won an additional USD 10000 for being nominated as one of the finalists.  
Padma Shri for T.V. Mohandas Pai
Padma Sree The man behind India’s largest school mid-day meal programme and the member of Akshara Foundation’s board of trustees, T. V. Mohandas Pai was conferred with the prestigious Padma Shri award. A recognition well conferred and well deserved.  
Grammy for Ricky Kej
Ricky Ricky Kej – Bengaluru based musician who also composed our much loved math song won the 57th Grammy awards for his work in album Winds of Samsara. A proud moment for all of us. Congratulations Ricky. You can listen to the math song here


The 8th of March this year was a sunny day with temperatures rising way above comfort zones. Perfect to stay indoors and cozy up with a book and a cold lemonade. IMG_20150308_084244 Akshara Foundation swooped in with just the answer. Since it was time for the next edition of Sunday Soul Santhe, we thought, what better than a cozy reading corner for kids to plonk and chill, away from the heat. IMG_20150308_092247 The main objective however, was to spread the word about Akshara Foundation in general and our classroom libraries at government schools in particular. Sunday Soul Santhe is a quarterly flea market that sees throngs of people come together and encourage small business owners with their art, be it crafty creations, good food or great music. IMG_20150308_092607 And so, that was how the Reading Corner came to be. We set up a yellow and white-hued cozy little reading space complete with beds and bolsters, where kids could just get lost in our re-creation of the classroom library. And they did just that. While getting kids to warm up to the corner initially was tough, we soon realized that was because of growling tummies. Post lunch, the corner was pretty much the most sought-after attraction at the Santhe. IMG_20150308_131137 While a couple of boys were seen begging their folks to let them just chill in the reading corner, another came back as promised after getting his face painted. Once they were in, no one wanted to leave! Each one aptly found a reading position befitting a perfectly lazy afternoon. And that was the last their parents heard them grumble at the Santhe. soul santhe collage Irrespective of our age, this is precisely what books do to each and every one of us, right? They take us into a completely different world.  A world no one should be deprived of or kept away from. And that’s exactly what Akshara aims at doing with the classroom library – giving children their right to imagination and innovation, at every stage of their childhood.


Did you know that only 25.3% of children in Std III can do two digit subtraction or that the percentage of children in Std II who still cannot recognize numbers up to 9 has increased over time, 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 state that Math learning levels in the country continue to be a serious and major source of concern.

Well, this was big news that went nearly unnoticed. To draw attention to this and remove the bite out of Math, we have meme-fied the big news and piggy backed on the cultural phenomena that is Bollywood.

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.

So let’s take stock, break/kick the shibboleths surrounding Math and build up  #MathinIndia. One Bollywood-inspired meme at a time. Enjoy!

math1 math2 math3 A big shout out to one and all to tweet it, post it, plus it, pin it and share it. Help us spread the word. As Carol Bellamy, former global executive director of Unicef said, “Education is far too important to be left only to educationists”.  

Disclaimer: All images have been sourced from public online sources solely for non-commercial and social good purpose.