Math Guru

GKM was my Maths teacher. He was fair in complexion always dressed in a white Dhoti and Kurtha. With his light blue eyes, he could pass off as a European.

He loved to teach Maths. He was very bright and very sharp. He always believed that Maths is an engine for all the other subjects, and is easy to learn. I had never seen him looking into any book while teaching. He had a strange sparkle in his eyes when he encountered a difficult problem. If you are a Maths student, you can imagine how scary it is if you do not know the fundamental concepts. According to him, all is in mind. Usually, one mental block obstructs the flow. All GKM would do is to enable a person to realize the obstruction and the love for Maths would flow like a fountain. Once I discover the potential, there is no looking back.

GKM always had a very forward-looking strategy. Many of my classmates would agree that he was a man of positive psychology and worked from the strengths of the individual. He exactly knew the difficulties of each of us in the class. He had personalized attention and approach towards each student.

While he was not aware of Carol Dweck or her theory on Growth Mindset or Martin Seligman of Positive psychology, GKM was a strong proponent of both the approaches.

I loved his teaching style, and he had a unique way of dealing with the subject — for example, Quadratic equations. This lesson has six to seven types of problems. GKM would make us do at least one hundred questions under each type. Practice makes a person perfect was his core operating principle. He would also give some practical examples for each of the models: a bus accelerating and manoeuvring a turn or the movement of a ball thrown upwards. GKM loved word problems. He would expect us to wear the thinking cap and solve the problems mentally. I remember him proving Pythagoras theorem using triangles in our football field. He encouraged us to apply principles of Geometry for solving algebraic problems and vice versa.

We never had guide books and other practice problems for reference. While the textbooks had limited problems, GKM would source items from various books. Hall & Knight, Pierpoint, Kreyszig and SL Loney were household names for us. Many current Maths students may not know these names at all. He assessed our performance based on our thinking strategies and our abilities to generate multiple ways to solve a specific challenge.

He had a star rating methodology for prioritizing the difficulty. Our notebooks would show a single star, a double star and a triple star on the left side of each problem. Three-star problems were danger problems with twists and turns and required attention. On the day of the examination, we were only reviewing these specific items.

GKM visited my family a few years back. He was already eighty and spent three days with us. I was amazed at the passion and the curiosity for Maths even at this age. He wanted to know if there any simulations for a few empirical mathematical methods used by the earliest civilizations. I was stunned when he referred me to a Babylonian stone tablet dated three thousand five hundred years ago on the trigonometrical methods using ratios rather than angles and sides.

I learn from my friend last week that he passed away. He was responsible for putting the seeds of curiosity and willingness to learn in my formative years. I am ever very grateful to him for all what he gave me.

I owe a lot to GKM.

गुरुर्ब्रह्मा ग्रुरुर्विष्णुः गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः । गुरुः साक्षात् परं ब्रह्म तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः ॥

( Guru Stotram: Guru is verily the representative of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He creates, sustains knowledge and destroys the weeds of ignorance. I salute such a Guru.)

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