Education: Mathematics has always been a mystery for most students struggling in their quest for academic excellence. In maths, it is the story that matters and not just the ending.

While for those who understand the subject, problems become poetry of logical expression.

In Kuzugchen Middle Secondary School (KMSS) in Thimphu, learning mathematics online with the help of various audio-visual aids has generated much interest and enthusiasm among the students in the subject.

In an effort to make the education system in the country IT (information technology) enabled, a pilot project on using an online programme, MathCloud, to teach and learn mathematics for class VIII students in eight middle secondary schools is underway.

The project titled Learning from eLearning: Testing Intelligent Learning Systems in South Asian countries, is funded and initiated by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

MathCloud is an e-learning program developed by a South Korean firm that aims to improve student-learning outcomes and help teachers identify learning gaps.

The program has four levels of learning features; check me, train me, test me and recommend me. The check me feature helps students understand the knowledge and concept of particular topics. The train me feature provides hints and examples on how to solve problems. The test me feature allows students to solve problems and the recommend feature suggests where the students need improvement and further practise.

After training curriculum officers with the Royal Education Council (REC) on the program, the Bhutanese mathematics curriculum for class VIII was aligned and contextualised on the MathCloud.

Dorjee Lhamo, a class VIII student of KMSS said that her interest for maths grew after she started using the MathCloud program. “This platform gives us more practise with examples and videos on how to solve problems,” said the 14-year-old adding that the program provides step-wise explanation and has got more solutions.

The project is in line with the education ministry’s education ICT master plan (iSherig). According to a press release from the ADB, the project is implemented on a pilot basis in collaboration with the education ministry and the REC.

KMSS maths teacher, Tshering Dorji said that MathCloud has complimented the traditional way of learning maths in a classroom with additional help from audio and visual material.

He said that the initiative has not only benefited the students but also has helped teachers learn. “With the introduction of the project students have now started to interact in classrooms,” he said. “Their performance and scores in tests has also improved drastically.”

However, issues of slow internet is affecting the smooth functioning of the classes from time to time. The project began with an internet speed of 1Mbps (megabits per second) and this was gradually increased to 3Mbps today.

Tshering Dorji said that some of the questions in the program are easy while some are difficult for a class VIII student. “If teachers can frame some questions and add in the MathCloud, this could be helpful.”

ADB has also initiated the programme in eight more middle secondary schools as control schools. The control schools were selected to act as a counterfactual for impact analysis of the program in treatment schools, according to the press release. The eight schools where the project is carried out are called the treatment schools.

The pilot project was conducted in five dzongkhags involving 16 different schools.

Younten Tshedup