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Think with a blink

Author K. Venkataraman makes life easier for students with "Think Without Ink - An Adventure with Quantitative Problems". ANUJ KUMAR sums up.

K. Venkatraman... Making things easy. Photo: V.V. Krishnan.

GOD IS in details. But then He doesn't have to crack CAT or GMAT, where you think through ink and you are on the mat, as reaching destination matters rather than the path taken.

Now, K. Venkataraman has prescribed new short but creative route to master the most talked-about monster called Mathematics in his maiden venture "Think Without Ink - An Adventure with Quantitative Problems", published by TWI Foundation.

"Our education system emphasises the conventional way of solving problems. This way is correct but it doesn't prepare the student for competitions where time is the key and only final answer matters. Also, nobody teaches students not to be in awe of numbers and instead of solving problems numerically, give a logical thought first. What happens is that children become so used to long tedious methods that even after shopping for their stationary, they need pen and paper to figure out what they have to pay. Most of the time sheer common sense can help you crack a problem. And this doesn't require much doing, just a knack to look at things differently. Our food vendor does that. Our milkman does that then why can't we? It is this thought of how to be lazy intelligently that made me write this book," apprises Venkat, who has put 14 years of research in testing methods and system used in competitive examinations.

There is some dichotomy in our system. First it forces students to take an exhaustive, meticulous approach. Then when they are out of school it tests them with some time bound teasers where just results matter and once they succeed to imbibe the requirements, the system again expects him to return to the comprehensive approach. If he is going to be a manager, business strategies await him and if engineering is going to be his calling then machineries vie for his attention and in both cases he has to move through the fundamentals to arrive at the solutions, unlike the mechanic next door, who doesn't have to do any explaining while or after mending the piston of our vehicle.

"Paradox is there. It has germinated because we aped the Western mode of education. We had a system where teachers used to ask oral questions in classes. Then there were Sanskrit puzzles and Vedic mathematics but we have closed doors on lateral thinking. And as teachers have also grown up in the same structure, they resist change. I am not against the conventional method, as then anybody who could arrive at answers by hook or crook will succeed and more than that it will impede research traits in students. However, it is time to introduce some smart methods, teaching students to think alternatively and optimisation of time. This will add to their repertoire, when they enter the field," reflects Venkat, a postgraduate in Industrial Engineering from NITIE, Mumbai. "When I was studying Industrial Management, I used to write long programs in PASCAL without making flowcharts. It was just logical thinking. That made me realise that there is nothing like God-gift it is just how you nurture your skills."

Optimistic about the response, he says, "Even old people are coming to me and parents are buying it for their kids, which is good considering syllabi are so huge that parents hardly think beyond course books. My next book is on reasoning, which has become an integral part of competitions. Ideally, reasoning and numerical ability should go together as they complement each other."

Game to run out the monster before it stumps.

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