Offline Tutor-web: Education.In.Suitcase


Happy Teachers

In TabLab education, continuous meaningful In-service teacher education is recognized as the key to quality education for children. After a one month’s school break in June, I have really been looking forward to going back to Banjika secondary school, Tanzania to continue helping and working with teachers to use the TabLab meaningfully in their lessons. Teachers are often unwilling to make lesson plans. Among the reasons they give is that they have a huge number of lessons to prepare for; they have large number of students of which they have to evaluate and make follow up. They also mentioned that they have a curriculum and a syllabus of which they have to complete at end of the term.

“The curriculum lists detailed outcomes for each topic and formal tests are held. Test results are used to rank schools. Teachers have to cover the entire subject content. We can’t teach anything outside the curriculum. First, time is not enough, because we have to cover the whole curriculum.” Chemistry teacher

As a teacher trainer I do understand the immense value of lesson planning and preparation. I decided to take the bull by its Horns by focusing on lesson planning and preparation while emphasizing on students centered teaching methods. I prepared and shared with them a few templates of lesson plans integrating the TabLab resources as much as possible. Part of the TabLab’s approach and aim is to enhance knowledge deepening by adding value to the quality of lessons that teachers deliver. With this approach teachers had to identify a topic in their subject area, design a lesson plan, prepare and use specific classroom activities that address the objectives of a lesson.

This approach that they are not used to require a change in teachers’ mindset in the way they teach. This often required changes in the way they prepared for lessons to emphasize depth of students understanding of concepts over coverage of content.  The lessons were prepared such that a lesson had to be student centered and teacher’s role was to make appropriate tasks, guide student understanding and support students as they tackled a given problem collaboratively. Lessons and classroom structure had to be more dynamic, with students working in groups even outside normal lesson time to complete their given tasks.

In guiding students’ understanding of key concepts and ideas, teachers had to use open ended-tools available on the Tablets that are specific to the topical area they were handling at that time, such as GeoGebra for data analysis in mathematics. The key to lesson’s success lied to the ability for a given teacher who is preparing to know what resources are available and structure tasks that integrate topic-specific tools available on the TabLab with students-centered teaching methods.

In one of the informal discussions with the teachers, the idea of lesson planning and preparation raised concerns in teachers: “I know it is a good idea to write a lesson plan and prepare but I have no idea how to do it. Well, I know it in theory, but how to do it in practice?” Geography teacher

The following example shows how a maths teacher at Banjika secondary recently used the Tablet to enhance knowledge deepening in Statistics, a topic taught in maths and Geography:

Lesson plan

At the end of my short stay with the teachers, I helped put a smile on their face and demystified the monster of lesson planning and lesson preparation. I hope with the wonderful TabLab resources, they keep on planning and preparing adequately for their lessons. The big question remains whether we should prepare lesson plan templates for the whole curriculum to accompany the TabLab?


I am training and working with 28 teachers of which 5 of them are teachers on teaching practice helping them acquire the knowledge to effectively work with tablets. With a set of 20 ipads, Rachel pi that has about 64GB of teaching and learning content, we are helping teachers to seamlessly incorporate the Tablab to support and enhance student engagement in meaningful learning and attainment of curriculum objectives.

Simply placement of hardware and software will not make learning to naturally follow. I have been enhancing pedagogical design for effective use of resources on the Tablab in teaching and learning of the various subjects taught. We have already had more than 30 sessions where teachers sit together and carefully plan lessons. They then go ahead to teach the lessons they have prepared and in some case while the other teachers observe other teachers teaching. We then sit together and discuss how the lesson went on, the strengths and weak points of the lesson and then finalise on how the lesson could be improved next time it is taught. This way, teachers have been learning a lot from one another. I have also seen a paradigm shift towards student learning since integration of the Tablab requires a teacher to think carefully and reflect on the role he or she plays in the classroom.

I have worked with teachers showing them how to identify teaching and learning tools. Them using the well thought out Khan Academy videos has been able to bring reality in the training sessions, in classrooms and is making learning more meaningful.

Students too were not left behind! During their extra time, evening hours and on weekends especially Saturday’s, I have been working with small groups these enthusiastic students. Today’s learners are born into the knowledge society and all they see around them including mobile phones, tablets, computers etc are just but tools they can use for learning. I help them by ensuring they have access to the TabLab and show them how to access a variety of resources, information and useful software for learning. I also support teachers to integrate the tools into their lessons and into student learning activities across the curriculum. These is providing immense learning and teaching opportunities.

For example, I have seen students during maths lessons really motivated to learn subjects like mathematics which is not normally the case. The videos, interactive content and interactive software like GeoGebra are helping students interact and understand certain concepts by making abstract concepts clearer. I am seeing a lot of collaborative teaching and learning among teachers and students respectively. Teachers too are acquiring knowledge of various teaching methods to enhance active teaching and learning. The teachers are quickly getting and enhancing their pedagogical skills to take full advantage of the huge potential of the TabLab to enhance students learning.

This wonderful initiative is not lacking challenges. The teachers still need to be coached on strategies to meaningfully integrate the TabLab into the curriculum. In particular, teachers need long term skills and strategies for effectively using in the Tanzanian curriculum to enhance students outcomes and students learning goals. The ultimate student success depends on teachers using not only the TabLab but other teaching aids to support sophisticated, hands on/minds on and multidisciplinary learning projects. Teachers need a system of support at various levels for integrating technology and overcoming isolation as they grapple with new and unfamiliar approaches to teaching and tools for learning. They need real tiem technical support in resolving problems related to hardware, software. These are problems that are often interfering with and even derailing the teaching and learning process in the school. AMI is committed and dedicated to helping and supporting them.IMG_0178   _MG_4919IMG_0044


The Maseno University first year students of MMA 106 (a service mathematics  course) class in the 2012/2013 academic year used their own mobile phones to make teaching videos. Their motivation was the Khan Academy videos which they watched in the math lab to strengthen their understanding of certain concepts covered in class. This is part of an ongoing research on the effect of certain teaching interventions on the students achievement and motivation in mathematics. To watch a few of the videos, click here. Feel free to send your comments and suggestions.


From AXIS Philly's visualization application.

In December, the Philedelphia police department in the United States released a csv database of major crimes (murder, rape, burglary, etc) since 2006. Since then, community software developers have been mapping the data. The community involvement is hoped to spur the future release of large city data sets.

Within the Kenyan context, we can ask: What large sets of statistics can we get access to that are of general interest, and how can we represent that data in a way to get important information across to community members?  It is vitally important to report data in a way that keeps people informed about what is happening in their country.  A good place to start might be the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.


Attitude is one's perception about something. There are two types: negative and positive attitude.

Negative attitude drives away the positive energy needed to do something. for instance,many students have a negative attitude towards mathematics.

This leads to poor performance in the subject because of the perception that maths is hard. Teachers and students should work together to fight negative attitude.

This can include the introduction of maths related games such card games,simple mathematical patterns or sequences with hidden rules and getting the students to participate fully.

Teachers should also try and attend to all students including the slow learners and introducing regular quizzes on what has been taught to enable the students to have constant practice.




This was a peculiar mini maths camp where we went to a students’ educational camp. We had a full day session, unlike the half-day session we usually have when we visit schools.  The organizer, Annette, had raised the tempo for us by promising the campers that by the end of the day, those who hate maths will love it. I am confident that the activities we did excited them about maths and for that I am proud.

The day was split into the morning, mid-morning and afternoon sessions. The former two were two hour sessions and the last one three. We had an unexpected extra half day for just dialoguing with the students about importance and joy of maths.

We had planned to have a game (or puzzle) in each session for an hour, and a computer (ing) session in the remaining hour. During the first computer sessions, the campers were introduced to Geometry and Algebra using Geogebra. The Monty hall game was done in the second session and was useful to introduce the concept of proportion, probability and data. CAST (Computer Assisted Statistics Textbooks) was then used to take them further into statistics. With it they explored the properties of mean and median.

The concept of transforming a “complex” math problem and looking at it in a simpler form was done taught using game 15 and tic-tac-toe. In the remainder of the evening session, we did a math puzzle which employed the concept of odds and evens in order to save captives.

On Sunday morning (second day), we had only planned to say goodbye. The students had a couple of questions and as we responded, it was revealed to them that they will be expected to teach standard 7 pupils standard 1 maths. It was very lovely watching them practice how they would go about introducing the concept of multiplication, using toys and not the blackboard.

The next mini maths camp will be on 29th at the same venue. This time around, the camp will run till 6.30 pm not 5.00 pm. I am already looking forward to it.




For the CBM conference, I used a slide and the following were the planned message for each slide. The slide can be accessed here (click to view).


  1. I’d like to thank the organisers for the opportunity share some initiatives we have taken in Kenya. I’d also like to acknowledge Rockefeller and the Statistical Services Centre, University of Reading for the collaboration which brought me to the UK and has enabled me to attend this event.
  2. My talk today is about the Maseno maths camp
  3. I work at Maseno University; it is a public Kenyan university whose claims fame is that it is, to the best of my knowledge, the only university in the world where the equator passes through the main campus.
  4. The Kenyan curriculum is based on calculation. The Maths camp aims to excite students in Mathematics which is not calculation based.
  5. The maths camp encourages students to solve puzzles and explore mathematical concepts.
  6. The first Camp was a small scale success with immense positive feedback and one major complaint. There was too much free time the day should be longer!!
  7. The second camp was bigger, the day was longer and the feedback was still very positive with the main complaint being about the accommodation.
  8. There are a number of key themes that have been used in the Maths camps… list them


  1. In Kenya, playing card games has been looked at as a negative influence on kids. A big part of the camp was dedicated to playing games, and demonstrating their usefulness in teaching children how to understand and follow rules as well as trying to come up with good strategies.
    1. Everyone was given packs of cards to take away with them.


  1. Statistics is my area and I believe strongly that we have to get students at all levels to be able to work with data.
  2. Focus on descriptive and exploratory statistics. Many of the students had never touched a computer before but they picked it up within a few hours on the computer.
  3. Gapminder had very good data presentations that students quickly understood. The caption compares health (y) and wealth (X).  Kenya and S. Korea have their trajectories from 1963 to 2009. This is used to get students and staff thinking about what development could really mean and relates to Kenya’s vision 2030…
  4. Tinkerplots was used to get students to explore their own data, which was collected as they arrived and halfway through the week, and then given back to them to explore.
  5. CAST which stands for computer ass… includes exercises, an adapted version for New Zealand schools and has been shown to be effective to help teach statistics in Kenya. A colleague is currently creating a version related to the Kenyan syllabus.
  6. The image shows them learning how to estimate mean and median in random dataset which may or may not be skew. This exercise reinforces the fact that computers can help improve mental estimation.


  1. The Geometry sessions served multiple purposes. They provided an opportunity for students to be creative while also providing the opportunity to stretch students beyond their comfort zone. Spherical geometry was discussed in 2011 and projective geometry in 2012.
  2. Even with the limited computing skills, remember that many students had never used a computer before; the aim was to get students to be able to create simple animations for themselves.
  3. With GeoGebra, this was achievable and there was even a small competition to create animated house logos.


  1. Programming is important; if you can write code to do something then you have understood it.
  2. Computer literacy was too low to assume that students would be able to write computer code but the concepts behind how a computer work and the basics of programming can be taught through practical activities and puzzles.
  3. Participants acted as human robots and followed instructions from this limited syntax to move objects from one place to another.
  4. This was to get them understand the nature of computers and how to follow a logic flow when programming.


  1. Modelling natural phenomena was also used to expand the notion of mathematics. One example of this was the model of swarms, such as schools of fish or flocks of birds.
  2. Students were told about the simple rules which govern the behaviour
    1. Only be aware of your neighbours
    2. Move in the same direction
    3. Aim to keep a constant distance apart
    4. Run away from predators
  3. (Say before you show) Students were asked to follow these rules in the field.


  1. Students were challenged to understand an open problem in research mathematics. This topic started by discussing how problems can be simplified when posed as other problems.
  2. We introduced a game called 15; two participants chose a number between 1 and 9 without replacement, one at a time. The winner is the one who chose any three numbers that added to 15 first.
  3. The numbers can be thought of as being in this pattern in a square
  4. Which transforms the game to the game of noughts and crosses / tic-tac-toe. This principal of transformation was then used to reframe a question in research mathematics.


  1. Unconventional number systems and modular arithmetic were introduced as a step towards being able to work with codes.
  2. Throughout the week code breaking came up in sessions and puzzles and at the end of the week students wrote their own codes to encrypt some of the clues for the treasure hunt and then tried to crack each other’s codes.


  1. You need to thank all the people who were involved in running the Maths camp, it is entirely run by volunteers with the international volunteers even paying for their own airfares!
    1. Emily
    2. Jo
    3. Amy
    4. Jeff
    5. Tom
    6. David
    7. Mike
    8. James
    9. Zack
    10. Hannington
    11. Janet
    12. Faith
    13. Marlone
    14. Leo
    15. Phyllis
  2. We would like to acknowledge that this would not be possible without the software we have been using, almost all of which is free to distribute. The few commercial packages we have used were licenced freely for the camp by the developers. We would also like to thank Wolfram research for the donation of playing cards and the US embassy for sponsoring a large number of participants.
  3. I will leave you with a couple of the student journal entries. They were asked to write something every day and their entry was then photographed and made available online. These are not representative entries. Thanks you for listening




On Nov 1st and 2nd 2012, I had this wonderful chance to attend this forum where people from different background, yet applied mathematics in their fields were present. These were people with medium and high level mathematics skills. The presentations and discussions centered on revolutionizing the way maths is being given to students.

Interesting things

It was fascinating to see the different apps that were there to aide maths education. The session after lunch on the first day had three presenters who showed some games and how they can be used to train children with logic and maths skills. Certainly there are currently many initiatives that are taking place to incorporate the use of computers to for maths and education in general.

The participants were in agreement that computers are important for teaching maths. The technicalities involved were however not trivial. For instance, one presenter showed an innovative grading system for UK but was also quick to mention that with the current procedures, this grading would be used in 2020.  I think the best thing to take out of this is that as people develop on ideas of CBM, it is important to note that it is not an immediate thing but a process.

Maths camp and CBM

The Maseno maths camp presentation was slotted in the section on “Experience: Using computers in classroom”. As the title would suggest, the presentation was about the different activities that we indulged students in during the event, and showing how this would relate to CBM.

The audience received the ideas well. The few I talked to said that it was a good initiative to excite students about maths.

The slides for the presentation are online. Follow this link (click here) access it and the speech (click to view):

What I felt I learned

There was a presentation on programming where the presenter later on mentioned that there was need to introduce programming to girls in early age. This is since they get involved in more things as they get older and hence do not create enough time to learn the programming. Though this is not the same, I felt that cementing positive attitude towards maths for girls should also be done early on.

People are genuinely interested in seeing that the students learn maths. However, many would not like maths as a subject to be completely drained down as computers take over. Many people defended the abstract component of maths for different reasons, while there were some who felt it was not needed.

So what for maths camp?

The interest has been generated; one teacher was interested in coming for the next maths camp. There are some useful resources that we can investigate more and see how to incorporate them in our activities (

Many thanks


Some Maths Links

Vi Hart - Hyperactive videos about beautiful math concepts. Snowdecahedron - A mathematical art installation. Tau - An alternative to pi. BBC Brief History of Math - A Documentary. John Baez - A maths superhero.
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