Thinkers of Open Door

10 min read

Thinkers of Open Door

Long time ago, I and some of my friends came back from a Maths exam. We were delighted because we had correctly predicted that certain questions would come in the exam. We had memorised proofs of similar problems from a book and luckily this method worked. While we were happily celebrating this success, another friend narrated two stories from the history of Mathematics about pi (π).

The Story-1 goes like this:

Around 2000 BCE, some ancient people were convinced that the first digit of pi is 3. This understanding of pi remained almost same for the next 2000 years. Then in 250 BCE, Mr. Archimedes from Greece started thinking about pi in terms of shapes and figure (Geometry) and proposed that pi = 3.14. But he was not sure what would come next.
This improved understanding remained for another thousand years until Mr. Madhava (AD 1400) from India calculated pi to ten decimal places as 3.1415926535. After 300 years, Mr. Lambert (AD 1761) from Swiss convinced the world that there are an infinite number of digits in pi, but he had no idea how to practically figure them out. Then finally Mr. Ramanujan and others (AD 1914) came up with a formula that can calculate pi up to as many digits as you want. A permanent cure for pi.

Then that friend narrated the Story-2 as below:

In the 19th century, people started memorising 100 digits of pi by creating a story out of the digits. But why only a hundred digits? Because Mathematician calculated pi till hundred digits till then. In the 20th century, people succeeded in memorising pi to 1000 places using spatial memory techniques. Mr. David (AD 1978) from Britain made world record by memorising pi to 10,000 digits. Currently, the official world record belongs to Mr. Suresh (AD 2015) from India for memorising pi till 70,030 digits. Many people are amazed by this feat.

After finishing these stories, that friend asked me which story did I liked the most. I replied that the Story-1 is more exciting as it represents the journey of humanity to understand pi and then achieve a complete picture of pi. I would call them the real hero. The Story-2 merely mentions people memorising digits of pi mostly for recreational purposes. I appreciate their effort and would call them memory-man.

Then he reminded me of how we approached exams. It was more like memory-man of Story-2 not like the thinkers of Story-1 whom we admire the most. This was an enlightening discussion.

Since then, I have seen numerous learning content that are simply based on memorising facts and formulas. Are we inspiring children to be like thinkers like it is mentioned in the Story-1 or the memory-men of the Story-2? Don’t we need to create learning content that inspire students to be a thinker?

At Open Door, I find myself helping learners to be like thinkers of the Story-1. This is a challenging task that requires a lot of personal and team effort. But I am convinced that it is going to have lots of positive impact on young learners sooner or later. It is up to us: ‘Think pi or rote pi’.

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