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The women who make numbers fun

DTNext 2018-03-12 05:30:00

Meet the women who are helping children get over the math phobia through their number crunching classes at home for kids till class eight.

(Clockwise) Asha, Nirupama Sriram and Sigappi Muthiah Chennai: Enrolled as teachers as part of a maths initiative called Cuemath — Nirupama Sriram, Asha Muralidharan and Sigappi Muthiah — are teaching children to have fun with numbers. Cuemath makes lessons in maths more experiential than solution-driven, focusing on math of concepts, aptitude and reasoning, through workbooks, game-like tab-based exercises and out-of-the-box tools like puzzle boxes. 
Every day, Nirupama Sriram sits and plays with blocks and colour counters with a five-year-old. No, this is not a nursery class in action, but serious maths being taught. Nirupama Sriram, who is a Cuemath teacher, is a part of the programme that makes the subject simpler and fun for children upto class eight. 
Having studied Digital Electronics, Nirupama has always had fun with numbers. But with the initiative, she is on a quest to take math out of the classrooms and make students fall in love with them. “We always come across students, who lack the basic understanding of the subject. I have had a very young school kid in UKG having troubles with counting. I used a lot of visual elements and building blocks to make the exercise more interesting, apart from our usual module prescribed in Cuemath. Today, the child doesn’t need extra attention and is doing exceedingly well," she says. 
For Asha Muralidharan, a gold medalist in mathematics, the greatest source of gratification has been seeing children shed the phobia for maths. “Children get easily scared with numbers and they can carry the phobia for the rest of their lives.” She recalls her work with a sixth grader, who used non-conventional methods to solve problem. “His approach to ratio proportion was not conventional, but his answers were right though. So, I used the same approach and taught him how he needs to explain further, rather than just arrive at the answers. I never correct their method at the first go, but slowly help them realise their mistakes or improvise on their methods and then make it clear to them. This way they take us teachers into confidence and listen to us better,” she says. 
Sigappi Muthiah, a stay-at-home mom, and a qualified engineer, is a mobile quizmaster at her residential society. She is often approached by children, her students in classes two to four, pleading with her to give them some exercises in maths even in their free time. “That’s the beauty of maths, with the elements of quiz and thrill. You don’t have to cram your brains with formulae and tables — just get the basics right,” she says.