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Math for the Blind – Training Teachers

Ma…th, oh we teach only till 5th Std. Later, they drop this subject and take other optionals. How can we teach ? They can’t draw line, how can we teach graph, angle etc. This is what we get to hear from teachers at blind school.

This line of thought deprives the children with visual impairment to even know what Math is all about. How can they like or dislike a subject that they don’t get introduced to. How are they to know the importance of this subject in daily life, relating to its application and the various career options it leads to.

Vividha had an opportunity to reach out to the teachers who teach Math at various schools for the blind. This was possible through a Math workshop organized by Mathruchaya. We had 18 teachers across Karnataka attending this workshop of which 15 were either completely or partially visually impaired. Our sessions were planned for 5 hours across two days. The focus was on 5th standard State syllabus Math chapters covered over two trimesters.

Vividha was intended to train these teachers on math teaching methodology. Based on our experience, we decided to keep it simple and so restricted to introducing concepts alone. Our objective was to make the concepts easy for the children to understand and at the same time ensure they enjoy learning. During this process we also wanted to include all children who were at different levels of understanding concepts. We resorted to the play way method of teaching concepts to train the teachers.

circle game

Concept of circles through a game where rope is held by participants in a circular path and one participant exploring it

The teachers were given the class room experience during the entire session. The teachers were the students and had to play and interact the entire session. The teachers were formed into multiple groups to perform activities. On some occasions the whole group worked as a team and in some cases independently. This gave them an insight of how math could help students explore the subject in different ways.

The session that spanned across two days touched upon various topics. In Day 1, in familiar topics like Addition and Subtraction, only specific aspects were addressed as in carrying and borrowing using change game. Factors and multiples were introduced through herd game. A human factor tree was formed to give them understanding of its visual representation. Teachers enjoyed being part of a chocolate bar while they learnt the Fractions concept. Comparison between fractions with same denominator was illustrated with chocolate bar and comparison of fractions with same numerator was shown using rope. Angles and its types were explained using various things around us.

Day2 was about Circle and its components like centre, circumference, radius, diameter and chord were explained using ropes. Perimeter and Area of rectangle and square was introduced using frame and the plank fitting into the frame. Practical applications of these two were discussed to arrive at the formulas used to calculate them. Data handling aspects were discussed highlighting the need and how it is used. It was shown how tally can be interpreted and represented in braille. Bar graph was illustrated using human line that got created based on choices of their favourite sweet among given options. This human lines were later translated into bar graph representation using braille graph sheet. Various measuring aids used to measure length like scale (15cm, 30 cm), calipers, accessible measurement tape were introduced. Each teacher was individually taught construction of lines using scale or calipers on parchment sheet with stylus. Construction of lines using NIVH metal board on paper was also introduced. For specific teachers construction of angle using NIVH metal board on paper was taught.

For the participants from Kannada and English medium, instructions were given in English and regional language with key words from both languages. The teachers collaborated so well with us and helped us enhance our regional math vocabulary. We learnt a lot more in Kannada about math while we taught them a little more of math through games. It was a great time of learning together as a team.

Its a good start for our teachers to connect mathematically across various schools for the blind. Looking forward for a day when their high school students can discuss Math as their subject.

Ma….th! My favourite …. Oh! no, its the toughest subject for me…. I love to construct angles and circles …. Don’t tell me, who can remember all those formulas. Await for this inclusion in experiencing Math.

-Savitha, Special Educator, Vividha


Prayoga 2018

filterationFrom ages, Science is taught in schools like how history or English are. By this,  we mean that facts are told and  children are made to mug up these and write in examinations. Very little thought has been given to spur the natural curiosity in children to experiment and learn. Some do the experiments, but are done with steps given in the textbook the EXPECTED results (also in the textbook) are arrived at. Children’s questions have no role to play as they are modeled to these demonstrations.

This has a very big impact on Scientific thoughts of children who are visually impaired. Their alternative ways of thinking is not appreciated by the sighted adults. The visual approach in teaching with least practical knowledge which the sighted children easily grasp, is a natural hindrance to children with visual impairment.

We have no answers to all problems, but definitely would want to give the initial push and  academic  exposure of science to students with visual impairment through hands-on experience.

Prayoga is an effort by Vividha to make Science an interesting and an academically accessible subject to children from schools for the blind.

Prayoga 2018

Sri Ramana Maharshi Academy for the Blind is the only school for the blind currently in Bangalore that offers Math and Science to the students till their 10th grade. This was a good place for us to pilot our first Prayoga.  We have already seen good progress in Science with regular Vividha students and that gave us confidence to implement it with a slightly bigger audience.

We worked out the topics with their teachers/curriculum coordinators and came up with once a trimester experiment day for children in grade 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

What did we cover in our first Prayoga? The lessons that were chosen were “Separation of Substances” and “Friction”. Children were divided into a group of 4 but attempt was made to  take each one  through the experience. Some methodology followed:

  • Separation of substances

A mixture of chickpea and rava was given to them and asked to separate. They did hand-picking, but took a long time. So we asked for a better solution. Someone in the group said sieving. We gave each group a sieve and they did. We summarized two separation methods. Then we discussed about how rice is harvested. We gave them a new broomstick and demonstrated how paddy is separated from the straw. That method of separation was Threshing. The story of rice continued and rice had to separated from paddy husk for which winnowing is used. We gave them a mixture of sand and dry leaves and ask them to winnow it.  Then we gave them the mixture of salt and sand and children could not use any of the learnt methods of separation. So they came up with the solution of dissolving the salt in water which they did. They observed the settled sand and then poured out the salt solution into another container. Two more methods, sedimentation and decantation were learnt this way. Now they noticed that the salt solution had floating impurities, so wanted to filter. They used cloth and filter paper to filter and understood filteration. Now salt was still not separated from water. So  as per their suggestion boiled the water to see the salt residue. Also observed water collected in the lid while boiling. That covered evaporation and condensation.

  • Friction

They were  given nylon and cotton clothes to put on their hands and they experienced that one slipped easily while the other did not. They slided the bowls on plates which were greased with oil and which were not, to see the difference. Then they used matchboxes lined with different textures  on an plane and inclined it to see which ones would slide first. They pushed the chair with and without wheels to experience friction. Then was measurement of friction using mechanical spring balance  that had tactile markings. They related all these to the definitions of friction, types of friction and measurement of friction.

Thus we concluded our lessons for the day with a lot of learnings to take home!

Some pics here –




Water Scientists

A visually impaired student feeling the steam

A visually impaired student feeling the steam

Yesterday was the day when 5 students with visual impairment became water scientists :). In a programme called Nayantara, at Sankara Eye Hospital, we started off by discussing where we get water from. Children answered and we reached from the glass to jug to tap to ocean. We discussed how we get rain and one child said, it was God who give us rain. Okay, but how does he do that?

Our first experiment was “Water Magic”: how water moves from one glass to another. Students filled coloured (for the benefit of low-vision students) water in 2 glasses and kept an empty glass in the centre. Between the glasses were paper napkin strips which we called “ladder” for water to climb from one glass to the other. We left the set-up undisturbed and decided to observe after some time.

We then proceeded to move to water cycle experiment. Children initially observed how water vanished from the container when heated, wondered where it magically vanished, and later collected it on the underside of the plate. Felt the “rain” pouring down from the plate as ice cubes on the plate condensed the steam.

We came back to our water magic experiment and yes!! the cup which was empty inbetween 2 filled ones was now filled with some water. Magic!

We then moved onto our third experiment where we observed what dissolves in water and what doesn’t.

One interesting aspect was that one girl who was sighted joined us and I saw how much she enjoyed the whole experience! It was a time well-spent on my birthday!!

Science – Light experiments for the blind

Recently I got an opportunity to demonstrate how light related experiments can be made accessible to students who are visually impaired. After we successfully demonstrated light travels in a straight line, reflection and refraction (for which I was prepared), then came the question of making observations about the shadows by the student. This really was challenging since I had no set up ready.

The experiment was to be conducted by the student to observe how the size of the shadow varies as the distance of the object from the light source varies. This can be told to the blind student, but how will it become “science” when the student does not observe it himself.

Here is what I did: Usually the experiment set up is horizontal for sighted students. I got the screen on the floor and the light source above it. I used a stool with a hole to hold up the torch, so, that became a torch stand. We used a spoon as the object so that the hand of the spoon can be fixed while the student observed the shadow of the spoon head. I tied the spoon hand to a wooden block so that it wouldn’t move during the experiment.

The screen was a Braille sheet mounted on a corrugated plastic board. The student turned on the torch. He used a light probe to differentiate between “light” and “shadow”. I helped him locate the shadow and showed how he could move the light probe to find out difference in sound. This was a little tricky because the light probe had to be held in a slant position. My student was able to identify the sound difference, but to lower the light probe to the actual point where the sound changed he needed some assistance. As teachers, we will have to look for a better set up there.

The student used a stylus to prick the position on the screen where the light probe changed the sound. Then he joined the dots to get a comparable picture of a spoon head. We repeated the experiment with a different height of the object stand.

It was now time for observations. My student observed the difference in the size of the shadow. Since he had measured the distance of the object from the light source, he could easily make the required conclusion!!

Tactile Graphics Workshop

IMG_2200In August 2015, Vividha organized a Tactile Graphics workshop for teachers and parents of children who are visually impaired. The participants learnt about the do’s and Don’ts of making the tactile graphics, how to present a tactile graphic to a student, materials that can be used to make them and most important the objective behind making them. There was an exhibition of tactile books, science and recreational models made for children who are blind.

Summer Camp for children with visual impairment!

summer camp participantsAn Insight into the Summer camp for the visually impaired

What happens at the summer Camp for the visually impaired? Lot more than what happens in the usual summer camp!!

As soon as children finish their exams, their parents are eager to send them to various summer camps to make use of their free time effectively as well as to get them occupied with something useful.

Vividha wanted to give the same experience to children with visual impairment. It is even more important for VI children to attend summer camps mainly because there are a lot of things sighted children learn incidentally which are missed out by VI children and summer camps can be a great opportunity to get exposure  and learn these skills.

Typical children have various sources to gain information visually. Example : a sighted child would have seen a lot of animals around, on TV, in movies, in the neighbourhood, in pictures in the books, in the posters and hoardings, etc. So it is very easy for the child to imagine or relate to when stories are told about animals. But the same exposure gets missed out for children with visual impairment. Vividha tried to fill in this gap through various experiences at the Summer Camp, this May 2015.

Science is all about arousing the curiosity of the little child and letting the child to figure out things for himself. We learn so much about  say, Gardening not when we hear about it, but when we do it ourselves. What does digging the earth mean? How can one do that? How is sowing the seeds done? So must you always grow plants from the seeds? How are plants grown in the pots? Endless questions. Some were answered on the day 1 gardening session.

“When I am tired and thirsty, my mother gives me fruit juice, aunty”. Does the juice magically come from the kitchen? No way! Children learnt how to peel the mango, squeeze the juice out , mix various ingredients and make yummy aam panna.

Oh, what about these ingredients. Where did they come from? Children were taken shopping to explore the store, to experience the responsibility of handling money, buy some vegetables, make the transaction  at the billing section themselves. That’s not all. They ‘grated’ the carrots and cucumbers, ‘chopped’ onions and tomatoes, added ‘pinch’es of salts , squeezed out lemonjuice and made churmuri and gave some to their parents to taste too. Now, that’s the step towards making them independent.

Now, the never before experience! Children go to the zoo to “see” the animals in the cage. Our children went one step ahead and held the eggs of ostriches, emus, crocodiles in hand, felt the texture of a snake’s skin and sharpness of a porcupine’s pine, held a live tortoise and touched a rabbit! Now, isn’t that an experience of a lifetime?

After the zoo experience, it was time to familiarize with domestic animals. But now through some acting skills. Children wore tactile masks and enacted the role of few domestic animals, imitating their sounds. They held hands and took a walk to look at some birds, collected their feathers and listened to their quacks and chirps.

All the children who attended the camp went to regular schools with sighted peers. This was an opportunity for them to socialize with other children who are visually impaired, who also used canes, who also read Braille, and to play with them the tic-tac-toe and the snakes and ladders games, the accessible way!