Teaching to Learn

I never really learnt anything until I started to teach. Here are some of my experiences.

 · 4 min read

There is just one week left for the final exams and my niece is not prepared at all. Her private tutor has raised her hands and said that she is not to be held responsible for the results. I decided to take up the challenge and to teach her maths and science in the evening, while my wife volunteered to take care of rest of the subjects in day time. This task for me has an obvious objective to prepare my niece for finals, and a selfish reason for me to recap the maths I learnt in school.

As a student, maths was terrifying to me. The exercises never help me connect with real world. For example in learning trigonometry, what was the benefit sin, cos and tan the same in real life? Or how a moving car with tyres rotating at 720 degree in a second would do good for me? In fact how tyres can rotate at 720 degrees at all when there are only 360 degrees?? I scored though, thanks to my tutors who gave it lot of importance. In reality I was clueless about where and how to apply maths.

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I would have never got the answer to these question if I would not have joined an engineering company. In ERPNext, I learnt from my colleagues what the all-powerful x is. The alphabet that haunted me for a good ten years, started finally making sense. The programmers around me would use it all the time to put validations and derive final value from various variables while designing a software application. But I never applied it myself, until an intern, Pratik Vyas joined the team. (Watch out for him, I think he is a great programmer in the making).

I received an assignment from client to extract the basic price of an item out of tax inclusive price. I gave it a try in spreadsheet with some formula but was nowhere close to correct answer. Pratik help me form an equation on top of which we derived the formula to get basic rate of an item. This is how formula was derived.

Given: Tax inclusive price (TIP) and Tax Rate (T)

To Find: Basic rate (lets call that X)

So,

TIP = X + X * T%

TIP = X + (X * T / 100)

TIP = X (1 + T/100)

X  =  TIP / (1 + T/100)

I entered this formula in spreadsheet for one time and just dragged it to calculate the basic price for hundreds of items listed below. I tasted real flavor of mathematics and loved it. It was when I realized that maths is not about getting right answer. Maths teaches you basic phenomena of HOW TO THINK. And I realized a good three years after I completed my graduation!

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So, now when I am teaching my nice (for the selfish reason I told you about), I see her at the same place where I was in my school days. With every problem, I try and give her a real life example so that she can map it with real world. We recently took Identity chapter in which we learnt about Expansion Equation. The problem was to calculate an square of big number, say 53. The formula was to put the value 53 in a way it becomes easy to get square of it. So 53 can also be written as (50 + 3).

This was the question asked to my programmer colleague in job interview for profile worth 100 grand per month. My friend gave the right answer. Unfortunately the interviewer was only interested in right formula. The formula my friend used was not same he was expecting. And it was one of the negative for him not clearing that interview.

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So, what I am trying to ask is this, why not teach maths which helps student (like me) map maths problem with read world? I believe merging mathematics with basic programming can bridge that gap.

Yes, Programming. Because just like maths, even programming teaches us how to think. Also, it’s very convenient to apply maths in programming, which is not that simple in other streams of engineering like civil, mechanical engineering etc. For example, the basic maths calculation of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication can be put into real life scenario by asking student to make an spreadsheet listing students marks in each subject, calculate percentage and generate rank for each student based on percentage scored.

The unjust world we live in, the weightage of right or wrong depends on who says it. The words of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg will certainly have lot more weightage than mine. Check below what they say about Programming and Education.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKIu9yen5nc

Confession

I bluntly raised my hand at my niece when she didn't pay attention. I am really sorry for that. No one had ever raised their hand on me for whatever I did. All I wish is to see her scoring highest in all subject and taste success.

I am selfish again.


Umair Sayyed

Umair is the Chief Customer Officer at ERPNext. He has done more than 50 ERP implementations remotely and replies to most incoming inquiries.

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