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The monthly newsletter from EI

Issue 67 | October 2010 |

This Month’s Issue Journal Writing in............. 01 Mathcovery & Duke TIP.... 02 Our African Baobab.......... 03 ASSET Ambassador........... 04 Why Do We Use............... 05 Hurrah for Wrong............ 06 Teacher’s Bite ................... 07 Event & Contribute Edu. ... 08

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Editor’s Note Hello Readers! Wish you a Happy Diwali & Prosperous New Year! I had a wonderful time meeting all my young ASSET Ambassadors from Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Anand, Chennai and Bangalore during the ASSET Ambassador meets. Interacting with them gave a chance to know them better and got more useful insights about students’ mind and what they think. This issue covers about the DUKE TIP talent search program, the African Baobab from Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Rajaypalayam, Mathcovery second stage etc. Top decision-makers in the field of education discussed global best practices at Education Project, Bahrain. Do share your thoughts and comments on this issue.

Bindu Pillai

Journal Writing in the Classroom: Personal Student Writing Aids in Retention and Learning Keeping a journal is a great learning tool. It is a way to get students to write down what they think, see, or hear and to promote both learning and thinking about a subject. Often this is a way for teachers and parents to help the student learn to self-direct their own learning. Students normally write about things that they imagine and know, and it's a great way to foster interconnections between what they know and what they are learning. Using journals fosters thinking and learning in a lot of different ways. Students who learn to maintain a journal on a regular basis have the opportunity to reflect upon what they are engaged in every day. Thinking in a reflective manner is a great way to learn to think and speak more clearly, be more precise, and be more actively aware of what one’s own thoughts and ideas consist of. Journals are great for recording one’s thoughts, feelings, ideas and expressions as well as things they have heard, and seen. They are also good to note down expressions about how all these things are connected, or how they contrast. As a teacher, think about what type of journal you would like your students to keep. Give some thought about what the purpose of the journal will be, how long you want your students to actively keep a journal, what the journal can be used for

and how the journal can be used to promote classroom learning. One way to get started is to write a few examples on the board, or use PowerPoint or some other method to display it. This method of modeling can help students understand the format and the kind of responses to be considering as they write. Put aside time in the school day for journal writing. Make sure that on a daily basis there is a section of time set aside solely for journal writing. Positive comments, remarks, and a well placed question, at times, helps students to focus on what they think and observe. Give a topic that is similar or related to what is being studied, to help evoke a variety of responses in observation and to guide the learning in a positive vein. Encourage students to explore a different area or concept that is directly related to the subject or learning at hand. Having your students maintain journals is one way to help them participate, and self-direct their own learning. Nothing is as rewarding as seeing that special look that comes into students’ eyes when you know they have just realized what you are trying to get them to see. And, effective journaling is one method to help students "turn that switch" on.

10,000 kids of India see things a little differently from rest of us. They see one more dimension when they look at a beautiful photograph, a game of football or an elegant Bharatnatyam recital-they see Maths in all these things! These children are the participants of Mathcovery-the National Level Mathematics competition by Educational Initiatives (EI). EI is now recognized as the leading organization working in the field of assessment in India and abroad. Ruhi Shah of Anand Niketan, International finds the presence of Math in the Railway Reservation systems. Suvo Bhattacharya of National English School finds the presence of Maths in the task of Disaster Management, where we come to know how quickly volunteers can respond to the needs of people by estimating losses and calculating logistical requirements. And when a swanky sports car zooms past Arya Bhimra of Rustomjee Cambridge International School, he gets fascinated not just by the speed and make of the car as most of the kids of his age do; he makes a mental note of the geometrical shapes of the different car logos! The effect of the common wealth games was not lost on the participants of Mathcovery at all. At least 40 students, and not just students from Delhi, found the presence of Maths in CWGfrom the planning to the actual games!

student of Delhi Public School (DPS), Ahmedabad. Anshul is part of the team of students who initiated Mathcovery. The group consisting of students from class 7 to 11 has been working with the Mindspark team for some time now. Mindspark is a computer based, self learning programme by Educational Initiatives and has been made to create a better understanding of Mathematics in an innovative and fun manner. Of these 10,000 students, only 100 were selected for the second round. For the final round 30 students will be selected and they will need to present their ideas in the form of 3D models at an exhibition which will be held at Ahmedabad. The exhibition will provide a great opportunity to the students to interact with their peers and to share their findings with Mathematics Experts from across the country. These experts will form the panel of judges for the exhibition.

The competition began with just 6 kids from Ahmedabad and grew to 10,000 students from across the country! Working with Mindspark in creating a nation-wide contest was simply amazing. “I learned many new things, like ‘Math is found everywhere’. Usually, we find Math difficult but actually it’s very easy, as we discovered.” says Anshul Sheth, a class 7

The entries at all the stages are assessed on the basis of: the unobviousness of the idea, clarity of thought, an understanding of the topic, creativity and depth of knowledge.

With over 30 years’ experience in identifying and supporting academically gifted youth in the United States, Duke TIP in partnership with ASSET has launched the Talent Search in India. Duke TIP will provide families and educators an opportunity to identify and support academically gifted students in India.

Participants in the India Talent Search, modelled after Duke TIP’s U.S.-based 4/5th and 7th Grade Talent Searches, also receive access to Duke TIP’s educational programs and resources for gifted students, a certificate for their participation, and a results summary to interpret their scores on the ASSET test relative to other children their age.

Over 2,500 seventh standard students have qualified and have been invited to join the talent search by scoring at the 95th percentile or above in the English, Math, or Science section of the in-level ASSET test (Summer round 2010). The students hail from a total of 243 schools in 100 cities across India.

The Duke University Talent Identification Program is an international leader in identifying and serving the educational needs of academically gifted youth. Through identification, recognition, challenging educational programs, information, advocacy, and research, Duke TIP provides resources to gifted students, their parents, educators, and schools for the development of the students’ optimal potential. Please visit for more information.

Registration to join the Duke TIP in India Talent Search was closed by October 30.

Our African Baobab -

Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Ilanthope, Rajapalayam termed as the ‘organic monuments of our planet’. A recent work using carbon dating techniques as well as the study of the core samples showing growth rings by the South African National Biodiversity Institute suggests that a tree with a diameter of 10m may be as old as 2000 years. Baobabs can be burnt or stripped of their bark or uprooted by storms, but they will just form a new bark and continue to grow. When they do die, they simply rot from inside and

The majestic African baobab is one of the longest lived and the largest trees in the world. Native to the African soil and a rarity in India, it is seen nestled in the heart of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Ilanthope, Rajapalayam. The scientific name of this plant is Adansonia digitata named after Michael Adanson, the French naturalist who described it in 1750. It grows to reach enormous proportions. The trunk may vary in size depending on how much water it needs to store for the season. One of the largest baobabs in South Africa has a circumference of 46.8 m (152 ft). These colossal forms are noted for storing water up to 120,000 litres inside their swollen trunks to endure harsh drought conditions. The bark is grey or silvery, purple-tinged and dimpled. The trunk is monstrous and the cork-like bark is fire resistant. When the tree sheds its leaves in summer, the spreading branches look like roots sticking up into the air, as if it were planted upside down. The leaves are palmately compound on a long stalk without any stalk of their own. The tree flowers for the first time at about 20 years of age. Flowering occurs mostly during the months of August, September and October. The flowers are large, pendulous, the flower cup with five white petals is bent backwards and the stamens with numerous golden anthers form a beautiful ball. The flowers bloom at dusk and wilt by dawn. They have a distinct musky odour, which enables pollination by fruit bats. Fruiting occurs between April and May. It is a large, egg-shaped capsule covered with yellowish brown hairs.

suddenly collapse leaving a heap of fibres, which makes people think that they don’t die but simply disappear. No wonder, they are thought of as magic trees. No one exactly knows how the African Baobab was introduced to India. It was an African custom to carry seeds as emergency ration during a journey. The baobab seeds were a special treasure like the pistachio nuts and tamarind seeds. Baobabs are believed to have been brought to the west coast of India by Arab traders more than a millennium ago from sub–Saharan Africa. As a mark of appreciation for our baobab, we call her the ‘great grandma’ of our campus. We are proud to have the baobab as part of our natural heritage and ensure that this wonderful world treasure is safeguarded on our campus.

Baobabs reach a mind-boggling age of over 5000 years and are Contributed By – Chinmaya Vidyalaya P.A.C.R. Mat. H.S. School, Rajapalayam

ASSET Ambassador Meet

ASSET Ambassador initiative started with the aim of spreading our vision of ‘learning with understanding’. We have appointed 250+ ASSET Ambassadors from different schools across the country. ASSET Ambassador meets were conducted in Ahmedabad, Chennai and Bangalore. The objective of the meet was to meet all the ASSET Ambassadors in person and explain to them their roles and responsibilities as an ASSET Ambassador of their school. Around 60 students from 30 schools participated in these meets. All the ASSET Ambassadors not only had a wonderful time but also made friends with their counterparts from other schools. The occasion became even more special as some of the students were accompanied by the ASSET coordinators from their school, who also participated in the event. We discussed the vision of Educational Initiatives, a brief profile about its founders, what is ASSET and Mindspark and briefs about EI’s Large Scale Assessment Projects, as well as various issue affecting us like environment, cleanliness, traffic regulations etc. We also discussed the various measures that can be taken at an individual level to make a difference. Some of the students have also started a discussion forum on the online community especially created for the ASSET Ambassadors. By being a part of this online community, the students will be able to participate in various activities of ASSET as well as get news about happenings in the schools around the country! The entire meet was a blend of idea sharing, understanding roles and responsibilities and playing games! We asked the Ambassadors to share their findings from the meet and here is what they had to say: “We understood our Roles and Responsibilities as an ASSET Ambassador” “We got to know the opportunities that being an ASSET Ambassador entails” “We got to know so much about ASSET and about learning with understanding”

Why Do We Use Symbols in Math? in a theoretical manner. Without symbols you simply could not perform math. Remember, much of math is abstract. How could you possibly perform simple algebra - much less calculus - without having the use of the symbol "X"? Could you even imagine trying to perform geometry without symbolic representations of triangles, squares and rectangles? It simply can not be done or if it was done it would be so laborious that it wouldn't be as efficient.

Sometimes it is the little things that are the most important and you could lump mathematical symbols into this category. It is undeniable that symbols not only enhance understanding but also provide a universally perceivable manner in which to show a certain math function or illustrate a sequence. This is not a new concept. It has been around in math since ancient times. It was probably even around in one form or another during the Stone Age!

It is important to understand that the key to comprehending math is in the interpretation of the concept and not really in the nature or amount of symbols and the role they play. However, to understand concepts one must essentially have a good grasp of the role and meaning of symbols and also be able to appreciate their usefulness in making math that much more simpler to understand and duplicate. The logic of signs and symbols in math is undeniable and is often stressed as a vital tool in making math a universal science.

The fundamental need in math is to represent the relationship between a sign and the number or value it refers. Certain ideas and concepts can be clearly illustrated only by the creation and use of symbols. Measuring the relationship between numbers and representing the relationship symbolically not only serves to simplify the process but also gains a better understanding of the concept than a wordy description of the same. This is where the issue of languages comes in. In more simple terms, a plus sign, a minus sign, a multiplication sign are all symbols. We need them for a very simple reason: we have to express what we are doing in a clear manner. When we are adding it would be ridiculous to always write out one plus on equals two when we could express this symbolically with 1 + 1 = 2. Imagine trying to perform calculus if you have to write a lengthy equation out in several paragraphs. Not only would such prose be voluminous, it would be confusing and prone to error. Plus, what language do you want to write it in? Remember, math is universal but languages are incredibly vast. Simply put, without proper symbols math becomes next to impossible. In fact, you could look at it this way: the symbols of math are reflective of a mathematical language. Math is comprised of primarily two things: numbers and symbols. Symbols are found in simple math, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, etc. Symbols are essentially representative of a value. Decimals and fractions, for example, are symbols of parts of a whole. These symbols allow us to "work with" parts

Because symbols are so common in math we sometimes take them for granted. The reason we take them for granted is that they make math so easy to perform (actually, they make math performable, period) we do not really tip our hat to their true value. That does not seem like a great way to treat the very thing that makes expressing math possible. Without various symbols you would be forced to go back to counting your fingers and toes and you don't want to do that again do you?

Hurrah for Wrong Answers!

The idea for this article came to my mind when I went through the website of Educational Initiatives in which they have analyzed the reason behind the errors of students for simple conceptual questions. They have diagnosed why a majority of students make mistakes on topics which are presumed easy and well taught by their teachers. It’s amazing that what we as teaches have communicated (in what we feel a very effective manner) can be understood so differently (read wrongly) by some students. A right answer, I feel, is like a dead end- you can’t move any further. However a wrong answer opens up a flood of queries. Was a wrong formula used? Was there a calculation error? Was the reasoning faulty or a misinterpretation of what the teacher communicated? Was the question ambiguous? The mind works feverishly to know the correct answer to this!

School Corner

As teachers, most of us analyze the performance of students after a test, identify the concepts where mistakes have been made and take efforts to explain the topic again. I feel this exercise would serve its purpose better if the teacher explores the wrong answers given by the students in class and removes the misconception. Prevention is better than cure! Sometimes in class, of course, I could make a mistake and the student’s response could be correct. Here I could resort to humour (perhaps say, “I wanted to see if you could catch me out!”) and humility and accept that it was an oversight on my part. What teachers should not do is say, “No” or “Wrong” to an incorrect answer and proceed to the next student whose hand is raised. By doing so, she is losing a golden opportunity to uncover the student’s thought process and discouraging the student to think and think aloud.

In my 19 years of teaching, I have learnt a lot from wrong answers- both from my own mistakes and those of my In fact, analysis of wrong answers can help the teacher better students. My regular practice now, when a student’s answer is understand the potential misconception in a particular topic different from the expected one is to ask “What makes you say and guide her into planning and implementing her lesson, that?” Sometimes while the student is trying to rationalize his consciously avoiding such pitfalls. answer, the teacher finds several others who offer to explain It is said, that good teachers are those who continue to be this child’s line of thought! In fact, I feel time spent on analyzing learners. Learning from the mistakes of our students and the rationale behind a wrong answer and clarification of the accepting this as a prospect to better ourseleves, I feel, is one of wrong perception right away is time well spent since it could have been the misconception in the the minds of several other the hall marks of a true learner. students too. Contributed by - Durga Chandrasekar, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan Senior Secondary School, T. Nagar, Chennai

Teacher’s Bite


Who has most influenced you to become an educator, and how did they influence you?

My mother, who was a very dynamic and sincere teacher herself. She built in me a sense of passion and devotion towards work. As an educator, she said, ‘Adaptability, commitment and thoroughness of work can make great students and teachers.’


What is your approach to classroom management and student discipline?

The best way to have good class discipline is to understand children and give them freedom. Self- discipline is an important aspect of this freedom. If class teaching is connected to the outside world and if teachers provide resources to solve problems and make learning innovative, both classroom management and discipline automatically follow. Nevertheless, sometimes it is also necessary to be strict in order to maintain discipline.

What are your views r e g a r d i n g t h e importance of teacher training and development in educating students?


Teacher training and development are Mr. Sandeep Gupta closely linked. The process of TT brings Principal, forth in each teacher the ability to The Woodstock improvise in various class situations. It School, Gwalior gives them skills to cope with and stay ahead of change in an increasingly fastpaced world. The methodology of classroom teaching, management and discipline needs to be revised with the times and changing capacities of students. Training programmes are basically time- and need-based. They create an environment where teachers learn strategies to handle a variety of children. Training programmes are therapeutic in their nature and the teachers need them timely to extend their best to the students, both in and outside the class.

Tips to motivate students

When starting a new topic or subject area, have students select a portion of the topic they would like to teach. Give each "student teacher" a day or two to prepare and then have them teach a small group or the whole class about the topic. Most students in grades 3 -12 like to be in the spotlight and enjoy being the "teacher" for a few minutes. It helps them remember

the information better, pay closer attention to detail, and be respectful when others are speaking. Also, the activity gives the class a chance to learn from someone other than their regular teacher. Teachers who've done this have found that students often have higher test scores than they do on more traditionally taught units.

Forum to Explore Best Practices in Education


Mr. Sudhir Ghodke, Director-EI with Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, CEO, Bahrain Economic Development Board EDB

Top decision-makers in the field of education discussed global best practices at Education Project, Bahrain. The Education Project is a three-day conference that was launched last year to examine challenges in the classroom. The theme for this year’s conference was Transforming Outcomes and Developing New Skills for All Students, identifying successes that can be replicated around the world. The conference programme included various sessions on solving the issues faced by global higher education, meeting the needs of the workplace and the role of the polytechnics, as well as sharing the experience of building an education system in the

Gulf to address the education-employment gap. Sudhir Ghodke, Director – Educational Initiatives was one of the speakers for the session organized to review the experience of India and China in education and how they rose to prominence in science and research and development by producing more scientists in their schools and tertiary education systems. Other prominent speakers included Tony Wagner, Codirector, Change Leadership Group, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Christine Gilbert, HM Chief Inspector, Ofstead; Ari Pokka, President, Finnish Association of Principals; Ralph Tabberer, Chief Schools Officer, Gems Menasa (Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia).

Contribute Educational Articles and Best Practices We invite readers to be a part our newsletter by contributing educational articles and Best practices followed in their school. Here is a perfect opportunity for you to showcase your writing skills, your expertise and share your knowledge and get exposed to 7000 schools. This is a platform for you to share the interesting educational articles you have written or you have read and have found useful; how you taught a particular topic in class and made it interesting for students, innovative methods used for teaching, best practices followed in your school, about educational trips etc. Send us the write-up in not more than 500 words along with your School Name, City and with one or two photos. We would be glad to publish it. You can mail the contents to

Humourous Bite Teacher: “This is the fifth time this week that I have had punish you. What do you have to say?” Student: “Thank god Saturday and Sunday are holidays, Sir!”

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