"I love maths because it’s easy. You know, counting and doing sums," says six-year-old Ashna Mahajan with a conviction which would sway the most crusty math-phobe. "We get to play with beads," chips in classmate Krishan Chawla, more inclined to get to the heart of the matter. Bent over perforated foam boards, this lively class in Bandra’s Arya Vidya Mandir school is plugging the holes with beads to make the number "nine". Some groups come up with three neat rows of three beads. Others lay out lines of five and four. Another group comes up with two rows of four and a solitary bead. Unwittingly, they are figuring out the concept of addition: that different combinations of beads can add up to nine.
"The mathemat has brought maths alive for them. The kids learn by doing and discovering, not by rote," says class teacher Meeta Tongaonkar. More importantly, they don’t feel stressed. "Parents have been telling us their six-year-olds can add in their heads. And because concepts in the first grade are so clear, the children are even picking up second grade maths much faster," she says of the year-old programme.