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Updated: January 14, 2014 00:49 IST

How math and science can be fun

Suresh Krishnamoorthy
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Venupriya Nadella
Venupriya Nadella

Janyaa, an NGO, is dedicated to enriching the learning experience of children in rural schools and aims at preparing them for leadership roles

Why does a man lean forward when carrying a sack on his back? What is Newton’s second law of motion? How is sound transmitted? What is Bernoulli’s Principle?

A small stick and two magnets in the shape of rings are used to demonstrate the scientific theory and explain to students that opposite poles attract and like poles repel. Two balloons are used to explain Bernoulli’s Principle: as speed of a moving fluid increases, the pressure within the fluid decreases.

A fork and a coin makes middle-school students understand the centre of gravity, while two plastic jars with a string attached in between explains how sound is transmitted. Students are encouraged to practise these at home, using match boxes connected by a string, for instance, says Venupriya Nadella, an SAP engineer in the USA.

Janyaa – meaning ‘life’ in Sanskrit – is a charitable organisation dedicated to enriching the learning experience of children in rural Indian schools and aims at preparing them for leadership roles as they grow up.

It comprises a five-member core team, assisted by about three dozen volunteers, all of them Ms. Venupriya’s colleagues at the SAP headquarters in Silicon Valley.

Since 2009, Janyaa members have distributed 492 kits that teachers use to demonstrate experiments and help students from Class 6 to 10 understand math and science theories better. The objects used to explain the experiments and theories, and are put together by Janyaa volunteers during their yearly vacation here in India and sent out to Government schools.

The kits cost Rs. 15,000 each and Ms. Venupriya is appreciative of all those who have helped them with money and time.

She is particularly grateful to Akella Prasad, her mentor, and her company that supports Janyaa with gift-matching programmes.

“Our focus is on the lower strata of children. Unlike scholarships that only address the top five or 10 per cent of students,we work on the belief that every student is intelligent and all that is needed is a bit of direction,” she says.

A recent, silver jubilee re-union of alumni from Velagapuri Ramakrishna Siddhartha Engineering College, Vijayawada, helped her get more contacts.

“This led to more expressions of interest from classmates who wanted to chip in,” she says, giving her classmate N. Balasubramanyam, an Inspector-General of Police, a pat.

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