Transforming Math through CPA

Transforming Math through CPA

Author: Shreyas Aaditya

Mathematics is seen as an abstract subject that causes anxiety among children. The use of the CPA method helps children in relating mathematics to their everyday lives and leads to a gradual shift to abstract thinking.

When I ask people to reflect on math, there are two types of answers that people give:

1. Fear, abstract numbers, useless formulas, etc or 

2. Fun, puzzle, brainwork, engaging.

I, for one, belong to the first category and have run away from math all my life.

In my days as a schoolchild, we learned concepts through the following steps:

  • My teacher asked us to memorize the formulas
  • He/She solved a few sums on the board or asked us to follow up on the example sums given in the textbook.
  • He/she asked us to apply formulas to get answers while clarifying our doubts on the steps during the process.

As a teacher in my fellowship, I have had to face this demon again, this time being given the responsibility to tame it into a relatable subject for the students.

The first assignment I chose for teaching was “Time” to the students.

One might think, give instructions on how to read it, and voila, the work is done. Well if only it were that simple. Some of the questions that kids asked were-

Why are there only 24 hours?”

Why is it divided into two 12 hours?”

And of these the most important one was:

What is time?” (leading physicists are confused with it still)

“Time is the continued sequence of existence and events that occur in an irreversible succession from the past, through the present, into the future.”(How many of us understood this the first time?) This calls for a simpler response for the child’s understanding- the change of day into night, showing a stopwatch turn over a minute every 60th second.

A reflection of my class got me thinking about how I can connect these concepts with children better. This led me into following the CPA method in the class.

Math is an abstract concept to children which gets them anxious.
What is the CPA Method?

My interaction with Children in class confirmed what we had learned in the Bhumi fellowship training.

Maths is most effective when taught through the CPA (Concrete → Pictorial → Abstract)  method. The three stages involved while introducing concepts and solving problems are:

  • Concrete, which involves “doing.” 
  • Pictorial, which involves “interpreting pictures.”
  • Abstract, which involves using ”structured formulae and procedures.” 

Introducing the concept of multiplication through Concrete maneuverable objects

The concrete method is when teaching math occurs through physical interaction with tangible objects and learning basic concepts through games and relatable daily life incidents from a child’s life. Thus math transforms from an abstract nonsensical concept into something quantifiable and relatable.

Children find it easier to understand abstract sums when they move gradually from concrete to pictorial to abstract
My Education and what I want for my children!

While I had no idea of the real-life use of these math concepts when I studied, I want my children to know:

  • What they are studying (concept comprehension) 
  • Why they are studying it (real-life use case) and
  • How to use the formulas and procedures in solving problems in a tangible way (application). 

Using CPA methods has given me the joy of watching children learn simple math concepts through tangible and gamified activities.

The Bhumi fellowship beckons young change-makers like YOU. Together let’s build better schools and help provide equal opportunities to all!


#BhumiFellowship #Transformation #Education

About the Author:

Shreyas has finished his graduation in business administration. He attributes himself to the lines of René Descartes -‘Cogito ergo sum’, meaning ‘I think therefore I am’. He believes education plays an integral part in a country’s upliftment.

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