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Dhaka Tribune

Faster, smarter, problem-solvers

Update : 16 Mar 2017, 03:09 PM
“17 plus 12 minus 15 is equal to..?” While listening to the numbers, little Saraf's fingers were moving through his imaginary abacus beads. And his instant answer was 14. Saraf Islam Nuhil, a student of grade one from Birshreshtha Noor Mohammad, is one of the distinction winners of the 10th National Level Abacus and Mental Arithmetic competition. With the slogan, “building genius,” Aloha Bangladesh is helping children gain brain development through Mental Arithmetic. “Nowadays, most of the families are nuclear with only one child. The absence of playground, a lack of reading habit and excessive video games and cartoons make a big impact on children's mind. Watching video games and cartoons impedes imagination. For these reasons children are using the right side of the brain (RSB) much less than the left side (LSB),” said Ali Haider, the Managing Director of Aloha Bangladesh. “That is where Mental Arithmetic comes in,” Ali Haider said. Mental arithmetic is a used all over the world and it is particularly useful for stimulating both sides of the brain. In the process, the child is given an Abacus to calculate. Later on, he or she is introduced to an imaginary abacus where he or she can count with the help of his or her imaginary abacus beads. “When he or she is visualising while doing maths, it basically acts as a stimulation for the right side of the brain. On the other hand, calculation is enriching his or her left side,” Ali Haider explained. Around the country, from Rangpur to Chittagong, 30,000 students are being groomed by Aloha. The classes entail physical activities, oral calculation, meditation and other individual or group activities. The impact of oral calculation is so brilliant that it increases children's power of listening, boosts memory, visualisation and imagination. “A lot of people think of Aloha as a coaching centre for mathematics. In reality we work to help children gain brain development; maths is only used as a medium in mental arithmetic,” Ali Haider said. While not a coaching centre for school maths, the thankful by-product of the Aloha classes is that the Aloha students seem to be solving their school mathematics work with 100% accuracy. Afzal Uddin Sahil, a student of class 7 at Oxford International School, who aspires to work at Microsoft, said, “I no longer fear exams. I can solve mathematical problems without using a calculator.”
A lot of people think of Aloha as a coaching centre for mathematics. In reality we work to help children gain brain development; maths is only used as a medium in mental arithmetic
“Take home assignments are given regularly,” said by Ali Haider. After attaining one class work per week, the children are given homework including oral calculation. Oral calculation requires help from guardians at home. Since parents cannot always make time to help their children students often end up trying to solve a week-long assignment in one and a half hour. According to Ali Haider, the quality among students start varying from there. The children who practice regularly perform much better than those who try to complete their assignments in one day. Children with special needs can become more responsive through mental arithmetic. It might take time, but the impact on them is quite evident. However, these children need one to one specialised teaching module for six days, which is quite expensive. Initially, Aloha had a few such cases, but it became unsustainable. one of the biggest challenges, said Ali Haider, who have been working with Aloha since its inception, is that it is still not affordable for the middle class families. The cost of the course out of Dhaka is around Tk600, whereas within Dhaka it ranges from Tk1400 to Tk2000. However, Aloha is planning to launch a self learning module, so that the cost can be cut by half. Ali Haider thinks mental arithmetic should be taught in schools. He said, “Many developed countries are applying such methods at their schools. And the learning can be provided by either Aloha teachers or by the school teachers after training.” Last month, Aloha Bangladesh organised its 10th National Level Abacus and Mental Arithmetic competition. Around 1600 students from over 300 schools around the country, solved 70 mathematical problems in five minutes, and a total of 199 winners were announced.
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