“Math is not a subject, it is a practical way of life”

Harini, Math teacher, K. C. Thackeray Vidya Niketan (India)

This interview is part of a project named Stories of Inspiring Teachers that aims to share innovative practices around the world and explore the benefits of teaching social and emotional skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, self-awareness, critical thinking) at school.

Hi, Harini, can you introduce yourself?

I started my journey as an engineer, but since I had a strong passion for teaching and I wanted to get the fear out of maths I eventually have a master in Education and became a teacher. At first, I was associated with Akanksha Foundation in an after-school program for three years and then I joined K. C. Thackeray Vidya Niketan in Pune.

Can you describe an hour of class ?

I always start with a “Do Now” (a warm up activity students achieve quickly in the beginning of the class) activity about mistakes, misconceptions. I tell my students: “I made a mistake, can you help me finding it ?” It is an open forum, everyone makes mistake, even teachers. Then, when I introduce a new subject, I make sure we start with an activity. And we close it with: « How it was linked to everyday life? ». It is important for me to make students understand that we all make mistakes and that we shouldn’t be afraid of it.

What did you learn teaching here?

Students are my teacher, if they don’t understand something, it means that I have to learn it in a different way and find other paths to teach it. I address the need of the students. For some of my students, there are too many concepts in maths so I always try to link it to daily life or personal skills. Because math is not a subject, it is a practical way of life. For example, when we had to learn about angles, I made them do origami and they understood very well what was a right, obtuse or acute angle. Another example : they created beautiful artworks to remember trigonometric formulas.
I’m always trying to find new ways to introduce knowledge. And sometimes, explaining a concept doesn’t work and students have to memorize some concepts. So how do they learn better ? Internet is full of ideas and I always think that if my students are struggling, many students around the world might have struggled likewise, so there might be a teacher somewhere who found a solution.

Can you share with us some tricks that really helped your students?

In trigonometry, my students were struggling with remembering the trigonometry values. So I explored it quite a bit and I found out the “Left Hand Trigonometry” : a trick to find the values needed. It was very useful and everyone got it: everything was in the hand! I present it on STIR (aims to reignite the spark in teachers) and I got an award for that. (You can see a video about this practice here.)
I created a “Math Lab Program ». This program is just about having fun with math. It is not related to the curriculum but children are encouraged to explore math concepts differently, with fun activities. For example, to learn about the HCN (Higher Common Number), they do it through paper cutting. (You can see this activity here.)

Can you tell us about a great moment you had teaching?

Two years ago, students were helping for our school’s 10th anniversary and they were arranging chairs and suddenly they realized that they were using math in their daily life. They linked it and it was very beautiful !

Can you illustrate teaching with an image?

I would say a fish in water! I mean teaching is my whole life, I look forward to each moment of teaching. It motivates me every single day.