Countingwell — a supplementary math learning app/online platform owned by Illuminati Learning Solutions Pvt. Ltd — released its State of Math Learning Report 2021 in early January highlighting the decline in math learning skills and outcomes of middle school children countrywide. The report analysed data of 75,000 class VI-VIII students from the learning cycles, assessments and tests taken on the Countingwell Maths learning digital app over the pandemic year 2021.
The key findings of the nationwide report are:
• Poor word problem comprehension i.e, lack of English language skills is a major contributor to low math learning outcomes.
• One in five students lack basic calculation skills learnt in previous classes.
• One of ten class VIII students is lagging behind in math skills because they have not mastered concepts that they should have learned in previous classes. This learning gap increases as students move to higher classes.
• Students witness a drastic drop in math scores from class VII onwards as they begin solving more complex problems that require application of multiple concepts.
• Students from tier II and III cities such as Varanasi, Madurai, Indore, Jabalpur, Vapi, Nashik and Bharuch performed on a par with peers in metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru.
• Male students fare better in math learning outcomes than girls, but the gap is marginal. The widest gender gap is in comprehension. While it was already quite low for both genders, boys did better than girls
• Weakest comprehension is in math concepts such as fractions, ratio and proportion, algebra, and decimals.
“The objective of the report is to understand, analyse and highlight the maths skills of middle-school children. We chose middle school as this is the stage during which math content becomes progressively complex and students begin to lose interest in the subject. Our goal was to understand the factors that influence maths learning and interest levels of middle school students. Our study found that poor understanding of concepts, reduced parental involvement in monitoring math learning at home, and increase in difficulty levels were some of the reasons attributed to the drastic drop in math scores in class VII students,” says Nirmal Shah, a chemistry alum of Madras University whose entrepreneurial journey began 24 years ago (Advanced Technology Labs, Chennai TESCRA, Bengaluru, Trade2Gain, Delhi), and co-founder of Countingwell.
Prompted by the struggles of their own children in learning math in school, Nirmal Shah and Ravi Jitani, a commerce and business management alumnus of Delhi University and INSEAD with over two decades of rich working experience (Fujitsu Consulting, Aureos Capital etc) co-promoted Countingwell in 2018. Headquartered in Bengaluru, Countingwell’s fully remote teams operate from New Delhi to Jaipur in the north to Salem and Honnavar in the south.
The company offers well-researched and specially designed app-based math learning study programmes mapped to the prescribed middle school (class VI-VIII) syllabus; a blended learning programme for schools and teachers, and career guidance and counseling programmes in careers of the future. Countingwell’s team of curriculum developers is assisted by a group of advisors who conduct quality checks and ensure alignment of curriculum content with the company’s overall vision and ideology, as well as with classroom requirements. Its advisors include Anita Sharma, principal of S.D. Public School, New Delhi and member of CBSE’s maths curriculum committee, and Dr. Dharam Parkash, former NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) member. The company’s robust technology support team ensures that the overall learning experience for children is joyful and stress-free.
Thus far, 400 schools across the country have signed up for Countingwell’s blended learning programme – introduced last December – and 80,000 classes VI-VIII students are actively using its app.
Within the country’s K-12 schools, there’s growing awareness of the decline in maths learning outcomes and need to improve maths teaching-learning by going beyond textbooks and adopting experiential pedagogies such as puzzles, games and labs to replace chalk-and-talk methods.
“Math skills and learning outcomes are steadily declining largely because of students’ pre-conceived notion of its subject complexity. For most students, math texts are the thickest, teachers the strictest and the subject the toughest. This math phobia compels learners to rote learn without understanding and learning gaps go widely unidentified. Therefore, it’s important to teach children maths through experiential methods such as puzzles and games so that children can understand its application in real life. The most important contribution of the Countingwell programme is the phenomenal improvement of our students ability to understand and comprehend math problems,” says Charu Srivasatava, principal-director of Siddharth International Public School, Hisar.
Charles Clarence, principal of Dr MPS World School, Agra, concurs: “Maths teaching-learning in schools needs radical overhaul. As the Countingwell report highlights poor comprehension and understanding of maths concepts leads to students losing interest in the subject. We need to shift from rote learning and formulae memorisation to practical teaching of maths. In our school, teachers integrate and apply math to everyday life situations,” says Clarence, who adds that the Countingwell blended programme has helped “develop students’ comprehension skills and improved their grades substantially.”
According to Shah, Countingwell is on a mission to enable students around the world to improve their math skills – foundational, problem solving and real-life application – by providing individualised math lessons based on their specific abilities and needs. Under its student-centric pedagogy and curriculum, problem-solving capabilities of learners are first assessed to identify math learning gaps. Based on this assessment, a customised learning programme is designed for each child, focusing on bridging learning gaps before moving forward to new concepts.
“The USP of Countingwell programmes is our pedagogy that is directly linked with learning outcomes and problem solving skills, while encouraging participative learning. With growth-mindset focused content that doesn’t penalise mistakes, but at the same time corrects and reinforces concepts, we are ensuring that we nurture a generation of self-learners. Through a carefully selected mix of short videos, an interactive Socratic learning method and a large repository of practice questions, we are able to encourage, inspire and enthuse children and above all, retain their interest in maths,” says Shah.
Countingwell’s interventions enhanced comprehension skills of children from 28 to 48 percent; previous knowledge from 64 to 84 percent; calculation skills from 56 to 71 percent and modelling skills from 39 to 58 percent. Moreover they improved the overall math performance of class VI children from 62 to 85 percent; class VII children from 54 to 72 percent and class VIII children from 55 to 75 percent.
“The Countingwell app – which can be downloaded in Android or IoS mobile phones – is a powerful tool for blended learning programmes, empowering schools to conduct formative assessments and determining learning interventions in the quickest possible time. Through this app, teachers can allocate homework, enjoy access to Countingwell’s extensive database of questions and insight into every child’s learning level, gaps and ways to fill them,” says Shah.
With the company recently receiving angel funding worth $1 million (Rs.7.4 crore), Shah has drawn up ambitious future plans. “We are all set to expand our footprint to Indian schools in the Middle East. Moreover, we will extend our curriculum content to upper primary, secondary and higher secondary students. Also in the pipeline are career and life-skill courses such as mathematical foundations of data science and financial literacy,” he adds.
Although India’s mathematics heritage stretches back to Aryabhatta (476-550) who invented the zero, the math skills of India’s 260 million primary and secondary children are in steady decline as grimly indicated by the Annual Status of Education Reports of the respected Pratham Foundation, and India’s dismal performance in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) which tests the general maths, science and reading capabilities of 15-year-olds.
Therefore, the promotion of maths education companies such as Countingwell which are committed to improving children’s maths learning outcomes through innovative pedagogies is a positive development that needs to be encouraged and emulated.
Also read: Smart tricks to memorize Maths formulas