Dr. Sugata Mitra’s top tips for maths teachers: Q & A

As part of our #MathsAdventure, we recently hosted a series of free expert panel events and webinars, which included one hosted by internationally respected and TED Prize-winning educational researcher, Dr. Sugata Mitra.

In his webinar, Sugata spent time explaining his famous experiments and findings like the Hole in the Wall, the Granny Cloud, and the SOLE approach to learning. He also showed teachers how to make the most of digital technology in their maths lessons, and the infinite possibilities that are on offer when children are simply given a big question, a digital device, and time to work together in small groups.

After the event, Sugata kindly answered more questions from the audience, which we’ve published below.

  1. Which teaching method is the best for the teaching of mathematics? Sugata: I don’t think there is a single method that applies to all of mathematics! It depends on the age of the learner and the subject matter. However, most learners will respond well to interesting questions.
    It is important to spend some time at the beginning of the session to make the subject interesting – whether it is multiplication or solving an algebraic equation. Then, follow up with an interesting question and see how far they can go working with the internet in groups.

  2. Some children are good with numbers but weak at language. How do we work with problem sums in that case?
    Sugata: It may be useful to present problems (‘sums’ as you called them) as pictures, cartoons, or comics.
    First, present the problem in language alone and then follow up with a picture. It is fairly easy to assemble pictures etc. using the internet. However, in the end, their language needs to become good enough to understand math problems because that is what they will confront in tests and examinations.
    Try having children explain the problem to each other. A lot of collaborative practice may improve their reading comprehension.

  3. I work with 12-year olds who cannot read numbers, how do I get them to understand and get excited about Algebra?
    Sugata: That is not easy! First, they will have to learn to read numbers. If they can’t read numbers, why teach them algebra in the first place?

  4. From what age do you think SOLE works with pupils?
    Sugata: From the time they are beginning to read. I would suggest 6 years and up. But increasingly, SOLEs work with very young children as well, because the internet is now full of audiovisual material, which children seem to be able to find by themselves.

  5. How can we make the introduction of a topic interesting?
    Sugata: Ask yourself why that topic is important to know. If you can not answer that as a teacher, there is not much chance the learners will!
    If you can express why a topic is interesting, it’s only a question of transferring that understanding to the learners.

  6. Can you please suggest few applications for Math?
    Accounting, trading, banking, engineering, science….The list is endless.
    If you mean can I give some examples, that would be too long to describe here!

  7. Does the internet give room for practicing maths?
    Yes, there are a very large number of resources for practicing any kind of maths. Ask the learners to find them.

If you’d like to hear more tips from Dr. Sugata Mitra about how to prepare for the digital future of maths learning, watch the free webinar recording here.

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