An Antidote to Rote Learning

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  • Anustup Nayak Anustup Nayak

Anustup Nayak, alumnus of the Georgia Tech School of Public Policy, wrote the Forbes India, March 1, article, “An Antidote to Rote Learning.” The School of Public Policy is part of the Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.


“Show me all the possible ways in which four friends, who go to a movie theater, can sit together in a row.”

Harvard professor Eleanor Duckworth asked this simple question that stumped me fifteen years ago. The problem seemed simple to me at first. I responded with “4 factorial (4 X 3 X 2 X 1) equals 24,” a formula I had memorized since twelfth grade. Then Prof. Duckworth added a small twist, “Take these four colored beads so that I can see how you came up with your answer.” My mind went blank. I could not visualize how I could arrange those beads. I had memorized the factorial formula by rote without understanding what it meant. Not much has changed in the thirty years since I finished school.

Rote learning is like cancer. It is eating away at the future of India’s 250 million school-going children. Only 40 percent of our 14-18-year-olds can calculate the price of a shirt sold at a 10 percent discount. Less than 60 percent can read the time from an analog clock. These are the sobering findings of the Pratham Annual Status of Education (ASER) 2017 report. Even students in well-regarded private schools are not much better off. The Wipro-Educational Initiatives study conducted in 2008 found that they lag international benchmarks on understanding critical Math and Science concepts.

For the entire article, visit the Forbes India Website.


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Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

Institute and Campus
factorial, formula, private schools, math, science
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  • Created On: Mar 12, 2018 - 12:42pm
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