Aryabhata- the Dalit Mathematician from India--his Non-formal Philosophy


In my previous post, No.6, I mentioned the research I did and its outcomes.  My research supervisor was pleased with the topic I chose and the outcomes. At this juncture, I appreciate his kind assistance as a professional and a person. The first thing that struck me during the orientation week was introducing each other--other researchers in the bach and our supervisor on a first name basis.  Addressing the professor by the first name, needless to say, shocked and terrified me, coming from culture, bound to show all modes of behaviour to show respect to the teacher--addressing her by first or last name the unthinkable in that.  It was not an initial ritual, a real shift in culture, a transformation process, not only on an academic level, reaching many other planes.  The two-year research period and the experiences and time I spent at the university gave me a new worldview, a great bonus to my earned degree.  

Once I completed my research, I changed my classroom teaching to accommodate the Social Constructivist theory,  which can positively impact the mathematics classroom.  SC is paying importance to the social and cultural factors--language, teachers and social equality.  I have already mentioned the learners' social and racial inequality living in the Homeland backwardness. This has definitely got a hampering effect on the learners learning outcomes.  

I mentioned the drawbacks of pedagogic systems, curriculum and textbooks, of the formalist/axiomatic approaches of the Western education system, the education department of South Africa was following.  On which I had no influence.  This means I was still following the textbooks and teaching materials according to the formalistic systems.

While I was reading the research materials, I hadn't got much from India.  We got chances to meet visiting researchers/educators from other nations and from different universities.  Once I got a chance to attend such a talk by George Gheverghese Joseph, the author of The Crest of the Peacock--Non-European Roots of Mathematics. 

I was a product of formalistic mathematics education.  As I mentioned, India was following the Western formal education system due to the colonial hangover.  In my BEd course in Kerala, there was no chance to discuss the non-European Roots of Mathematics or Science. 

The materials of the book, The Crest of the Peacock, gave me substantive support in my research motivation.  Another researcher in mathematics learning I have heard of was C.K. Raju.  I didn't get chances to read his book. Later, I got the chances to read his posts on mathematics teaching. In this post, I would like to write about one of his posts-- Arybhata Dalit, his philosophy of Ganita, and its Contemporary Applications. He adds: "This is not a retrospective superimposition of a modern category," Dalit.

It highlights important information. He starts with Aryabhata, the great mathematician in the history of India who was a Dalit from Patna.  Then he mentions how Aryabhata was Bhrahmanised, changing his name to Aryabhatta.  On another point, he contrasts Aryabhata's philosophy of Ganita with that of formalism in mathematics.  To Aryabhata, what is important was practical philosophy or empirical; knowledge is constructed through practical approaches--and it's easier for learners than formalistic methods or axiomatic deductive proof.  

He gives an example of it. 2+2 =4. A learner can prove this from any objects she can see.  But informal mathematics, the learner has to use Peano's axioms or the formal set theory to prove it.  

Will continue in the next post.

Post no.7 This is part of the BlogChatter Half Marathon


 

Comments

  1. Your experiences as an academic are interesting to read! I did not knwo what caste the great Aryabhata was but it does show that in the past anyone could rise up in life through the power fo their knowledge.

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    1. Thank you Brinda; the same with me, I had no idea about such a past deliberatly hidden away for someone's caste privilges, until I started reading about it. And its negative impact on the classroom peagogy is a grave concern.

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