What do Acharya Vinoba Bhave, a cricket umpire, Sankhya’s rangoli and Ganith’s rotis have in common?Answer: All of them feature in the ‘Happy Maths’ series of books, published by Pratham Books!
In this series, the author — Mala Kumar — brings the subject of Mathematics to life by relating it to historical events, sports, festivities and day-to-day chores. So, we read of Vinoba’s mother vowing to offer 10,000 grains of rice to God. Using this anecdote, the author goes on to explore questions about addition, multiplication and fractions. We learn of shapes by studying a cricket ground, and what happens to it when the crowd gathers in too close! Instead of using words like ‘radius’ and ‘circumference’, the author asks questions in terms of the length of the pitch and the length of boundary rope.
The little girl, Sankhya, creates rangoli in various geometric shapes, while her brother Ganith’s rotis never turn out perfectly round, but give us a lesson or two in percentages!
Published by Pratham Books, the four books in the series cover the broad areas of ‘Numbers’, ‘Shapes and Data’, ‘Measurements’ and ‘Time and Money’.
They are glossy, and, at first glance, resemble comic books or puzzle books rather than Mathematics books. There are stories related to Maths, comic strips featuring the characters Zzero and Eka, to give information and challenge readers to think, and diagrams and puzzles to explain concepts easily.
To inform readers about how numbers are called by different names in different countries, the author has an Indian and an American winning the lottery. They argue about how much they have won – one lakh, or one hundred thousand? Ten lakhs or a million? The argument continues till they reach a ‘billion’ which they agree upon, as ‘billion’ is common to both countries!
So, Mathematics need not feature ‘problems’ any more – instead, let it feature fascinating stories and intriguing puzzles!