A report on the meeting of keralamathforum members held on 2nd Feb 2014

A meeting of some like minded (?) college teachers/academicians was held on 2nd Feb 2014 at Govt. Women’s College, Thiruvananthapuram. The initiative (as in the case of many other academic initiatives) was taken by Dr. E Krishnan, a leading educational activist/expert in Mathematics in Kerala.

The meeting was attended by (mainly) a few youngsters who were willing to see a very much required change in the way in which mathematics is taught in Kerala. The discussions were centered initially around the syllabus offered by the University of Kerala in its affiliated colleges. Many of the participants agreed to the fact that there was a hurry on the part of teachers to “cover” the syllabus portions so as to keep their heads up in the flood of the end semester exam deadlines. This hurry causes leaving the students far behind from understanding anything, and they are mostly unable to to do anything in their own under a pressure to “cover” the entire portion.

One suggestion was that, instead of prescribing a text book (which usually tempts a teacher to give explanations line by line, or paragraph by paragraph exactly as given in the textbook), we can give a detailed outline of topics to be discussed in the class with a lot of reference material. This will place importance on topics unlike the present weight kept over textbooks. Dr. Sherly suspected whether this will cause the re-emergence of substandard textbooks (popularly known as guides which usually misguide teachers and students!).
Most of the participants agreed that there must be some computer based activity with every part of the syllabus in the first and second years of the BSc course. These activities can be collected together as a record and can be tested in the practical examination at the end of 6th semester.
Another common agreement was to include the “lost child” abstract algebra back to the 3rd year. This suggestion initially came from Mr. Vinod. Dr. Krishnan especially felt that the algebra which was keeping a continuous momentum till the end of second year suddenly lost its even presence in the final year. One option to accommodate it back is to replace the computer programming in C + Linux basics paper in the 5th semester with an abstract algebra paper. It was also felt that the students are forced to learn too much of complex analysis when they are unable to learn even real analysis with its complete rigour. Probably one of the complex analysis paper can be removed altogether from BSc.
There was another suggestion to include a self study paper (for example, history of mathematics) in the last semester by Dr. Vishnu Namboothiri. Even in the CBSE stream now offers open book style exams, and so this should not be a very much adventurous move in the degree level.
Ms. Jeeja was of the opinion that instead of breaking Calculus and algebra and keeping both in both the semesters (1 & 2), calculus can be taught completely in the first semester leaving algebra to the second semester.
Mr. Jayakumar felt that the Math syllabus for Physics, Chemistry etc courses (as complimentary paper) is too heavy and stressed the need to reduce it considerably. Mr. Vinod felt that the Math taught at the engineering level is very much abandoned by its teachers as well as the taught. This is mainly because the teachers do not try to understand where this math is going to be applied, and at the same time students who learn this math is not going to use even their engineering degree properly (as they are mostly going to be recruited for BPO jobs). So understanding math or even engineering does not do much for their future career; most of the participants felt.
The need of conducting the odd semester exams in the college itself, and leaving the even semester exams alone to the university level was also agreed upon by many of the participants. But the sudden shift in the style of conducting of exams seems to be a distant possibility from the experience with the functioning of the University.
The meeting agreed to find atleast one representative from each college who can pass the information between college and the forum. It was also agreed that there will be open announcements in this forum blog for online conferences using existing group technology instead of assembling everytime physically at one place. Dr. Babu suggested that the meeting can be held at various places instead of always assembling at Thiruvananthapuram.
Mr. Sumesh  was entrusted for finding out representatives from different colleges with the help of other forum members. He also agreed to start the “question paper analysis” section in the keralamathforum blog soon.
Those who are willing to act as college representatives for the keralamathforum can kindly send an email to keralamathforum at gmail.com or kvnamboothiri at gmail.com or to any one of the forum members mentioned below (provided you know their email ids).

Members participated (Names in the alphabetical order of first names)
Mr. Adersh V K, TKM College of Arts and Science, Kollam
Dr. Babu S, University College, Thiruvananthapuram
Mr. Jayakumar C, Christian College, Kattakkada, Thiruvananthapuram
Ms. Jeeja A V, Govt. College, Kanjiramkulam, Thiruvananthapuram
Dr. Krishnan E (Formerly)University College, Thiruvananthapuram
Mr. Preenu C S, College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram
Dr. Sherly Valanthara, Govt. College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram
Mr. Sumesh SS, St. John’s College, Anchal, Kollam
Dr. Vishnu Namboothiri K, BJM Govt. College, Chavara, Kollam
Mr. Vinod S, College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram


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