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Home > City Resources > Education > Douglas Butler's Autograph Mathematics
 Douglas Butler's Autograph Mathematics

Butler's Autograph Mathematics Software in India

There has never been more laughter and better response in a mathematics class. Douglas Butler's half-day programme 'Add a sparkle to your mathematics teaching' made even the most bored teachers and students, enthusiastic about the number game. This Douglas Butler, the mathematicianmathematician from the Oundle School, UK, has added a new perspective to the subject with computer aided mathematics. His software 'Autograph Mathematics' is already quite a rage in schools world over. Till date, Butler has conducted programmes in several countries, bringing to life the enormous contribution that new technology can bring to teaching. He uses tools like Word, Excel and the Internet to demonstrate how software can be used creatively in different subject areas such as science, mathematics and music, to make more interesting teaching.

After graduating in Mathematics and Electrical Sciences at Cambridge University and followed by a spell with EMI Records, Butler specialised in Secondary Mathematics. After serving as Head of Mathematics and then Head of Careers Education at Oundle, he is now combining teaching with directing the new ICT Training Centre based at Oundle School. This centre researches and creates resources for the educational use of ICT.

A keen dinghy sailor and pianist, Butler is also the principle author of the Autograph Mathematics Software. He is organiser of the Technology for Secondary Mathematics (TSM) and the new Technology for Teaching Music (TTM) day conferences for teachers, which continue under the ICT-TC umbrella. This mathematician has also conducted training sessions for teachers in the UK and abroad on the creative and interactive use of ICT.

Mumbaibest talks to Douglas Butler on teaching trends in the world and his unique mathematics experience...

How important is the role of teaching and technology in your life?

I have been a school teacher for 30 years now and have not regretted a moment of it. I have been the Head of Mathematics and the Chairman of a large curriculum project in the UK and for the last 5 years, I have been particularly interested in application of technology in education, specially mathematics. I have set up an organisation called Technology for Secondary Mathematics for the same. We have conferences, and teachers coming down to learn the tricks of the trade, to build their competence.

When it comes to technology, I have realised that innovations and the use of the latest technology not only saves time, but also makes teaching and learning more creative. Latest technology in teaching mathematics includes a combination of existing software and hardware. This is keeping in mind that teachers have access to a PC and to Standard Office Applications. In the software I demonstrate how Word and Excel can be used in an interesting and exciting way for teaching creative mathematics.

Have you had the opportunity to study teaching procedures in India?

Oundle School, UKI had been to many schools in India when I had come for a Commonwealth and UNESCO Conference in Goa. I presented my new technology in three to four schools in Goa. I even visited a rural school and was amazed at the response. School children in India are well-motivated and only require right guidance.

The significant difference I found when compared to schools abroad was in class size. In India, each class has 50 to 70 children, whereas in the UK our classes do not have more than 25 children. Hence, there we have a better possibility of personal interaction with children. In this country, you require special skills to interact with large number of children, at once and individually. In India, the lessons tend to be more of a lecture followed by tutions outside the classroom, which could of a more interactive nature. Soon, there will be a knowledge revolution in India, like we already see in many other countries.

How would you compare learning and teaching mathematics in different parts of the globe?

I have found that in many ways Australia is about 4 years ahead of UK, certainly in teacher IT competence, but I found them struggling a bit with subject specific applications. Australia has a much more mature use of the Internet and IT in education than we do, but it was surprising to find teachers there at about the same stage in the use of software in mathematics as a similar group would be in the UK.

In Sydney, the teachers' work area is based round a well-established PC network with a terminal on every teacher's desk. I have seen similar arrangements in Singapore and firmly believe that a school network will never really take off until it is freely available at every teacher's main work desk (and study at home). In Melbourne, I was surprised to find that the Mathematics State Conference was able to attract 2200 teachers, whereas in UK, the National Maths Association rarely gets over 250 teachers.

There is a much more established approach to professional development in Australia - regular sabbaticals, and time off to attend conferences and INSET. Most IT managers I met considered all their teachers to have been trained up to a minimum competency in IT about 5 years ago.

Do you think that Indian schools lack basic infrastructure?

According to me, computers should be used as a teaching tool. Rather than spending lavishly on laboratories, this could be a better approach. But with a class size of 50 students, it would be impossible. I feel that money is better spent using one computer in each classroom with a large display screen for all students to see. Hopefully, computers will become affordable so that we can do that. A projector is very expensive, if it has to be used as equipment in every classroom. Wireless hang-on-the-wall screens will be the next teaching aid to storm the market - this technology is about 2 years away. Some schools abroad offer individual computers for their students, but I am not convinced that it is money well spent.

Firstly, more teachers are required and they have to be paid better wages. It will take courage for any government to pump in funds in to Douglas Butler - Music with Mathsthe education sector, because the pay back time is perhaps 10 years hence. And in political terms that's forever.

Is your mathematics software made available in India?

We have already contacted a dealer in Bangalore. We have yet to fix on a price for the software in India. It is very difficult to fix on the price in India, since here schools cannot afford USA and UK prices. We might price the software in India at about Rs 8,000/-, which is reasonable for a complex PC software.

By: Anupama Vinayak


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