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  • Janaki Prasad

The Power of Play, Persistence and Peer Learning

Note: The names of all the learners have been changed to maintain anonymity

When Ayesha first came to our centre she was grappling with numbers and slowly working her way through counting. Her understanding grew after playing lots of game of snakes and ladders and since then her journey since then has been nothing short of remarkable. From those early struggles, she has made leaps and bounds, now delving into the realm of multiplication with zeal and determination.

Not only has Ayesha excelled in mathematics, but her progress in Kannada, the local language, has been equally impressive. When I first encountered her, she was at the stage of recognising alphabets and grasping the concept of "kagunita" (counting with syllables). However, her dedication has seen her slowly but surely transition into reading storybooks, albeit at a deliberate pace of about one page per day. It's a testament to her resilience and thirst for knowledge.

Recently, Ayesha expressed a keen interest in learning English, prompting me to embark on teaching her the basics, starting with short vowel sounds and fundamental consonants. Meanwhile, amidst Ayesha blossoming journey, I found myself simultaneously engaged with four other eager learners. Among them was Jhalak, who was just beginning to grasp the concept of basic addition. Another student, Aneesa, was struggling with the distinction between tens and units in numbers.

As I juggled the diverse needs of my students, Ayesha's impatience became evident. Sensing an opportunity for collaboration and peer learning, Ayesha eagerly volunteered to assist Jhalak with her addition exercises. With my encouragement, Ayesha took on the role of a teacher herself. However, despite her best efforts to guide Jhalak through the process, Jhalak continued to struggle with retaining the numbers in her head.

Undeterred by initial setbacks, Ayesha's ingenuity shone through. After observing Jhalak's difficulty, Ayesha devised a creative solution. Drawing from the resources at hand, she reached for the number cards I had been using in Aneesa's lesson. In a moment of inspired improvisation, Ayesha placed the unit card representing the number 8 directly on Jhalak's "head," offering a tangible and visual aid.

The impact was immediate and profound. With this simple yet effective intervention, Jhalak's mental block dissolved, and she swiftly breezed through the arithmetic problems before her. It was a testament not only to Ayesha's resourcefulness but also to her innate ability to empathise and adapt her teaching methods to suit her peer's needs.

In witnessing Ayesha's triumph, I couldn't help but marvel at the depth of learning that can arise from collaborative efforts and unconventional approaches. As someone who has devoted over three decades to the art of teaching mathematics, this experience served as a poignant reminder of the perpetual journey of discovery and growth that accompanies education. Truly, Ayesha had not only become an extraordinary student but also a teacher in her own right, imparting valuable lessons to us all.

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