Video Lessons for Nepali Math Curricula

By Prashanta Dhakal

Distance education is an effective way of teaching in this modern era. Video lessons for high school will be CFFN’s pilot program to help Nepali students in both urban and rural areas.  To this end, I found Khan Academy Video Lessons as the most effective way of educating people through distance education. I appreciate and admire Khan Academy’s bold initiative in online tutorials. As mentioned in the previous article, Khan Academy is a collection of online tutorials, in various fields of math and other subjects, that has demonstrated itself to be an excellent format for lesson delivery. Each video focuses on one particular concept and can be viewed in isolation from other videos. CFFN is proposing to make similar videos that are tied to the Nepali curriculum. Not only are the videos useful in isolation, they are also treated as a piece of the bigger puzzle.

For someone versed in some level of basic math, it doesn’t take long to spot slight errors in many of the textbooks used in Nepal. For example, in a Grade 10 math book I glanced through, there was a subtle mistake in the third sentence of the first chapter itself. The following was written regarding cardinality of sets: “The number of distinct elements in a set A is called cardinal number of the set.” Here, the subtlety of the language could really mislead the student. The wording suggests that a set could be composed of non-distinct elements, and that the number of distinct elements is the cardinal number of the set. It would be a grave mistake if a student understood that sets could contain non-distinct elements.

Errors like the one above make it difficult for a student to learn the math properly. I believe it is much easier to teach for the first time than to re-teach to overcome disinformation. In part due to the confusion that inexact wording and nuances bring to students, they are forced to memorize the material rather than to understand; furthermore, future learning is impeded by the build-up of subtle inaccuracies in their understanding.

Memorized math confers no value to the student, although a certain level of memorization does make it easier to understand the material at a later date, at which point it becomes useful. But memorization alone is not greatly beneficial: it is easily forgotten; memorization can be erroneous; and it is difficult to make use of in novel situations. Memorizing lessons does not grant the students wisdom that they can carry with them. For math to be useful, connections have to be made between various lessons; and students have to be encouraged to make the connections with examples that show or allude to the purpose of the lessons. In no field is the relationship between different chapters more important than in mathematics and this is why we are proposing to start with Khan Academy-like lessons in math.

Understanding higher-level math requires a good foundation because math builds on concepts and techniques learned previously. In that sense, it would be most worthwhile focussing in early grades. However, self-directed learning style of Khan Academy is not well suited for young children. Further, even if children start with a weak foundation and memorized concepts, understanding can build upon memorized math. Unlike building a house, where the foundation must be completed before putting up the rest of the house, a weak foundation in math can be overcome when learning math at a higher level. It is possible to build walls and strengthen the foundation in tandem. For these reasons, and due to quality material needed to pass the Student Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination in Nepal, we decided to begin preparing lessons for Grade 9 and 10 Maths.

Consideration was given to whether the material should be delivered in Nepali or English. Since Nepali students learn in both of these languages, the decision was not particularly difficult, especially considering that translating video in the second language is (in theory) easier than building the lesson plan itself. We also felt that making English videos would be easier for various reasons; however, our work may be most useful if we could prepare Nepali videos since Nepali is the medium of instruction used in most schools in Nepal and since  there are much fewer resources available for students in Nepali. We concluded that videos will be made in both of the languages.

It is important to consider why Khan Academy was chosen as a model to deliver math lessons. Firstly, it is a proven technique already being used. And secondly, the videos are small in size and contain little visual distractions – only the material relevant to the discussion is in the video. And of course, there is little cost associated with making copies of digital media.

We plan to make these videos distributable on YouTube as well as make them available offline for anyone with access to a computer. We fully believe that making Khan Academy-style videos in both English and Nepali for Grade 9 and 10 Math curricula is an excellent service to Nepali education. With time and availability of resources, we will broaden the reach to other grades.

3 thoughts on “Video Lessons for Nepali Math Curricula

  1. I volunteer with Nepali refugees in the US. Many of the children have been educated in English, but I believe some the younger ones who have little schooling could benefit from bilingual explanations of the math they are trying to learn. I haven’t found anything to indicate that a Nepali translation of the Khan Academy math lessons exists.

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