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Math for the Blind – Training Teachers

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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


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