When EdVillage Global Fellow Gaurav Singh met Dr. Stephanie Smith of Georgia State University, he told her, “We must have you come to India.” Gaurav knew Dr. Smith’s work in cognitively guided instruction was a good fit for the 3.2.1 School he was creating to educate poor children in Mumbai. In founding the 3.2.1 School, Gaurav envisioned a place where students from low-income backgrounds can achieve the same academic results as their wealthier peers at elite private schools. Innovative instructional practices like the teaching techniques Dr. Smith studies are key to this vision.
Gaurav did indeed bring Dr. Smith to India this year with the help of Global Giving donors. She spent a week training the staff of 3.2.1 in cognitively guided instruction (CGI), an approach that helps teachers understand the ways in which children invent strategies to engage with the problems they face in arithmetic. This lets teachers understand the ways children engage with numbers so that the students truly learn. Gaurav is committed to ensuring that the curriculum at 3.2.1 is every bit advanced as the best schools in the world.
Gaurav has furthered his vision of a school with “a focus on problem-solving and understanding versus just memorization” by using the TERC Investigations curriculum used in classrooms in the United States. This curriculum is specially designed to promote a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Gaurav thought the cost of the Investigations curriculum would be a barrier to full implementation of cognitively guided instruction in the classroom but, with the help of EdVillage and Global Giving, he secured a donation of back-copies of the math curriculum from TERC. With these lesson materials as well as cognitively guided instruction strategies, the 3.2.1 teachers are well-equipped to foster problem-solving skills in their students.
Having worked closely with the staff of 3.2.1, Dr. Smith is excited for what their school will bring to the low-income neighborhood of Crawford Market just north of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminius (the old Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai. She says that Gaurav is using the flexibility offered by a public-private partnership to “introduce a curriculum that will revolutionize what kids in India get.” Impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of the 3.2.1 teachers, Dr. Smith emphasized the value of young teachers who are willing to embrace new strategies. After seeing the teachers excited by a new approach to conceptualizing fractions, she noted, “They aren’t afraid to tackle [difficult material] and become better at the content.” She also stressed Gaurav’s role in building this excitement, praising how he “lets his staff see that this is really important just by his efforts and his dedication.”
Like many US charter schools, 3.2.1 is using these education innovations to help underserved students close the achievement gap. After visiting with members of the community, Dr. Smith remarked that the families who enrolled their children at 3.2.1 are “thrilled that their conditions could get better.”
The first 3.2.1 School opened in June 2012 serving 90 kindergarten students. The school will grow one grade per year all the way to grade 12. There are also plans to open more 3.2.1 campuses in the next few years.
Dr. Stephanie Smith, an expert in cognitively guided instruction in elementary mathematics, is currently an associate professor at Georgia State University.