In this interview we talk to Prajakta Mahajan, who after a distinguished IT career has now taken up the cause of taking mathematics to the masses in a simple, child-friendly format.
She is the creator of TheFreeMath.org and 140+ Maths videos on Youtube, which have been watched by thousands from over 100 countries.
Hi Prajakta! It’s great to have you on Sudhar. Could you tell us more about yourself and your Mathematics endeavor?
Prajakta: Hi, Thanks for having me. I am from Pune and am a mother of two. After working in the IT industry for over 17 years, I decided to step out of a full-time IT job. I decided to pursue something that has long been of great interest to me. So I started TheFreeMath.org so as to provide free, quality Maths education for all.
TheFreeMath.org provides free math lessons in English and in Marathi. There are some tricks and game ideas as well that make Mathematics fun. These videos can be played several times until you understand the concept or can be watched just to revise your studies. This is more like ‘a teacher at home, anytime and for free’.
What was the motivation for TheFreeMath.org?
Prajakta: I am a mom and I have seen that in urban India, in the last decade, plenty of new schools have come up with good facilities like bus transport, meals, playgrounds, activity clubs etc; but quality education is still a big challenge!
My son used to ask me lot of questions and I realized that they did not teach the ‘why’ part of any concept. For example, while learning equations, children learn that when ‘+10’ goes to the opposite side it becomes ‘-10’! How can the sign just change like that? Nobody knows.
This is the case of almost all subjects, not only Math. We just teach to mug up. However, we have made Math the scariest and a boring subject. It is also a big bottleneck in continuing education. Hence I started with Mathematics.
Do you think a child can learn Maths from the video or is a teacher required to hand hold and assist?
Prajakta: I don’t look at the website as a replacement for a teacher. However in most Indian schools, there are 40 to 60 students in every class and it is practically impossible for the teachers to complete the curriculum and at the same time provide personal attention to every student to make sure he/she gets the concept right. This is why parents have to turn to ‘tuition classes’ and spend a fortune of these classes.
TheFreeMath.org teaches Maths in a fun, free and interactive way that helps the child better understand the key Maths concepts. It is a supplement to what’s taught in school.
What are the key differentiators of TheFreeMath.org as compared to many other Mathematics sites online?
Prajakta: The first thing is of course the Marathi videos. I don’t think there are Marathi Math videos available on the internet; at least I am not aware of any. Another important factor is that the English videos are in Indian accent and are especially helpful to those whose first language is not English. Based on the feedback I have received, I think the way the concepts are explained is also a good differentiator. The videos have been created with an understanding of how Maths is taught in schools in India.
TheFreeMath.org tagline says “Math is more attitude that ability.” Could you elaborate on that?
Prajakta: It is not just a tagline. I believe in it. I first learned about this concept from Malcolm Gladwell’s book called Outliers and it inspired me. Many people think that they are not good at Math because they are not smart. This is a wrong thing to teach children. First of all, we need to teach fun things in Math, play games and explain ‘why’ when we teach new concepts. Another important thing is that you need to be able to concentrate, focus and invest enough time to be good at Math and this is true for many other skills as well. All these skills can be developed and you don’t have to be born brilliant.
So what’s the goal for TheFreeMath.org?
Prajakta: My goal is to reach out and make my videos available to every child and make the RTE (Right to Education) a reality. Of course, I cannot do it alone. I depend on the NGOs that work in the field of child education. If any NGO contacts me with their details, I send the videos on CDs to them free of charge so that they can take it to villages or vastis (localities) and they don’t need internet access to use it. A few organizations have started using it. I believe the real change makers are the grass-root organizations. My goal is just to provide some aid, some tools to them and contribute that way.
So who are the people using TheFreeMath.org today? How has the response been so far?
Prajakta: The response has been amazing and I am grateful to everyone who encouraged and helped me reach out. People from more than 100 countries have watched my videos. While 50% of the viewers are from India and 15% from the US, we are reaching everywhere from Canada to Australia, Brazil to Greece and Dubai to Malaysia. I get excellent feedback from all over the world. This is indeed very rewarding and keeps me going. There is a long way to go of course. This is just a beginning.
Wonderful. Thank you Prajakta. Considering the importance of Mathematics in our increasingly knowledge centric society, TheFreeMath‘s idea of fun, free Maths for the masses, certainly holds great promise of facilitating Sudhar in education. Best Wishes!
If you would like to help Prajakta with Maths content for TheFreeMath.org or would like to receive a free CD of the maths videos for your educational institute / nonprofit, you can reach her at email@example.com.