The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Math is magic and history cricket
- New school textbooks have high ambition: make studying fun

New Delhi, April 5: Next time you feel history is a big bore, think cricket.

Or, for that matter, clothes. Because the rustle of silk can tell what tomes can’t.

If you are wondering if this is some sort of a joke, it’s not. At least, the guardians of the nation’s young minds don’t think so. And they are dead serious.

Tender minds, they say, shouldn’t be burdened with dry facts ' because education should be fun.

The new set of school textbooks that human resource development minister Arjun Singh released today bears out this line of thought. The focus is on reducing stress and encouraging students to think rather than memorise.

The aim, said sources in the National Council of Educational Research and Training, was to make children understand a subject than to stuff them with information.

So mathematics, a terror for some, is now ‘Mathmagic’, and cricket is part of the Class IX history text. So are clothes, to show what the royalty wore long back and what the plebeian didn’t. And for a glimpse into the politics of Myanmar, there are cartoons to show what it is like there, the military regime on one side and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on the other.

So far, mathematics, political science, history, geography, English and Hindi textbooks for classes I, III, VI, IX and XI have been released. “The books for the remaining classes will be brought out later,” said NCERT director Krishna Kumar.

It’s not that all states have to introduce these books, but several, like Jharkhand, Uttaranchal, Kerala, Haryana and Goa, want to. “They have told us they want to follow these textbooks,” Kumar added.

While introducing the maths books, NCERT’s Anita Rampal acknowledged the general phobia about the subject. “The maths anxiety is very high. In our books, we have tried to give focus on the right process of solving a problem rather than the right answer,” Rampal said.

Therefore, in Mathmagic, a Class III textbook, stories are told to explain mathematical concepts. Apart from number operations, the children are given an opportunity to understand space, symmetries, measurement and estimation. There has also been a significant reduction in content.

Lessons on logarithms and vector algebra have been deleted from the Class IX text, while chapters on complex numbers and trigonometry have been condensed.

As for those who find history a huge drag, it’s time to look up. The new textbook for Class IX has done away with the traditional chapters on different chronological periods. Of course, students will learn about the history of colonialism, but through cricket, and the evolution of the game. The willow, the NCERT believes, has a lot to whisper. There is also a chapter on commerce, media and cricket.

The book talks about the transformation of the game, the role of Kerry Packer, the Australian tycoon who changed the face of the sport, and television. The lessons given to the students are novel. For instance, one asks them to “imagine a conversation between Thomas Arnold, headmaster Rugby school, and Mahatma Gandhi on the value of cricket in education”. Students have to write a dialogue of the conversation.

Another question asks students to “find out the history of any one of the local sports”. It says: “Ask parents and grandparents how the game was played in their time. Try to think of the historical forces that may have accounted for the change.”

There is a lesson on ‘Clothing ' A social history’. It gives the example of France to show how clothing was related to social hierarchy and class.

Before the French Revolution, the lesson says, “only royalty” would wear expensive material like “ermine and fur or silk, velvet, brocade. Other classes were debarred from clothing themselves with such materials.”

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