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Ways and means of increasing interest in Science

Education in Asia Prof. Dr. M. Shamsher

Ali President, Bangladesh Academy of

Sciences and Vice-Chancellor, Southeast

University, Bangladesh

1.Introduction Since mathematics is

the language of science, I shall in this article

include mathematics education as an integral part

of science education. That interest in science

education has dwindled globally. There are many

reasons for the lack of interest in science

education. The responsibility for this does not

lie merely with students a major part of it lies

with us, the teachers. Thus, it is the teachers

who need to address the issues of creating

interest in science particularly in the countries

of Asia which can not import costly equipment

from outside but still has had one of the finest

traditions of producing rare geniuses in

mathematics and science. The question that I

would like deal with is how to increase the

interest in science education in Asia. The ways

and means that I would suggest would only be

indicative but not at all exhaustive.

2. Ways and means of increasing interest in

Science Education Some of these ways and means

are a) Observance of the birthdays of the

luminaries of science This practice is followed

by people in Arts and Humanities to create great

public interest in the literary works of the past

and the present through holding birth

anniversaries of people who have attained great

heights in Art and Literature. A similar example

can be followed by scientists who could, for

example, observe the birthdays of Newton,

Faraday, Pasteur, Einstein, Watson Crick and

many others through holding public lectures in

easy parlance explaining how science has changed

our ways at looking at our own lives and the

universe around us. School and College children

and also the members of public would greatly

benefit from these lectures which could be

telecast for the nation. This brings us to the

role of the media (TV, Radio Internet) in

promoting science education.

b) Role of media in promoting science

education Today a large number of lectures

prepared by grand masters of science can be

stored in CDs and DVDs for distribution to a

wider section of the masses who otherwise would

not have been exposed to such materials. Since in

all countries of Asia the use of the Radio and

Television and also the internet has been

gradually increasing, it is only imperative that

Governments in Asia have a separate Knowledge

Network in which the explaining of science for

the betterment of life and environment could be

done in a very fruitful manner. The countries of

Asia could also exchange materials to be shared

in the Knowledge Network these materials could

then be translated or dubbed in local language.

Programmes prepared in English would have a wider

circulation.

c) Science Exhibitions and Technology Parks

as promoters of Science Education All countries

in Asia should give considerable emphasis of

holding of science exhibition publicly so that

children can display their query based innovation

and make the public more interested in science.

At this point I reminded of Nobel Laureate

Richard Ernst, who visited this country some time

ago. He informed us that even in Switzerland

science camps are setup at prominent places in

the city so as to attract way farers to the

science camps. If Switzerland can do this why

cant countries of Asia do the same? Apart from

science exhibition the setting up the technology

parks can also act as promoters of science and

technology education.

We may enumerate a number of other ways of

creating interest in science education but the

real challenge in Asia is to produce a set a

teachers who can enkindle the fire of imagination

and enquiry in the minds of children. Such

teachers are not always born they have to be

trained. They may be given some special

pedagogical guidance. In what follows, we would

outline some multidisciplinary methods of

creating interest in science and mathematics

education which would have an element of fun and

delight in it and at the same time would be easy

and relevant to life and environment. We start

with mathematics education.

3. Interest in Mathematics Education One of

the ways of creating interest in mathematics

education is through generating interest in

geometry. Incidentally, the secrets of all life

forms are also embedded in the tiniest of spaces

in the double helical geometrical structure of

the hereditary blue print of life, the Master

Molecule DNA. The interesting thing about

geometry is that the teaching of geometry is not

costly at all. The simple geometrical models that

one needs can be constructed easily with the

locally available materials. This session is to

address hands-on projects also. What better

hands-on projects in geometry could be than to

ask the school children to play with either an

ice-cream cone or a cone made with clay and an

ordinary blade and then to cut several sections

of the cone. We talk of conic sections a point,

a straight line, a circle, a parabola, a

hyperbola are all examples of conic sections

whose mathematical equations are taught at

various levels at schools and colleges.

But very few teachers really bother to ask the

students to make cones of clay the apex of the

cone is ideally located at a point. One could

draw a straight line at any point of the surface.

One could cut a section parallel to the base and

get a circle. If this cut is done a little

obliquely, an ellipse will be obtained. Similarly

one can get a parabola and a hyperbola when one

makes sections, which touch the base. This is fun

and delight, which can be realized even while one

is drinking from a glass of water.

By tilting the glass one can look at the top of

the tilted surface, which would now appear to be

elliptical. With further tilt, the ellipse is

always there but this time is slightly more

elongated. And still on further tilt, the ellipse

would grow further narrower and narrower finally

the ellipse would degenerate into a pair of

straight lines. Mathematically, this is realized

by noting that the form of the ellipse is given

by the equation where a and b are the

lengths of the major and minor axes. The major

axis a is very large when the ellipse is highly

thin or drawn out. Then

and one gets , or y2 b2, or y

b. Thus one notices two lines with y b and

y -b above and below the axis of the ellipse,

respectively.

This is again fun and one can see mathematics

in action. A point that should be highlighted by

teachers is that it is not only humans that make

use of geometry the other lower forms of life

find geometry as very essential to their

existence. An example may make this point clear.

Imagine a rectangular room in which a wasp

is sitting at the center of one wall. Exactly on

the opposite point is sitting a fly. Commonsense

dictates that if the wasp has to prey on the fly,

it has to take the shortest route which could be

down, straight and up or up, straight and down or

side ways, side ways and sideways on both sides

in an Euclidean fashion.

In practice, the wasp does not follow the

Euclidean Geometry it follows a path, which is

curved and touches four walls including the roof.

It can be verified by drawing the room on a

reasonable scale that this curved path is

actually smaller than the Euclidean routes

described. This is the geodesic of the wasp.

The idea of a wasp following geodesic may sound

strange but nature is stranger than fiction. An

aspect of geometry, which may fascinate young

minds, is the running of parallel and

anti-parallel helices in DNA, and the way in

which the DNA codes for all characteristics of

life in a tiny volume showing that the geometry

of life is more fascinating than that one

observes externally.

Again, through a discourse of geometry and by

having reference to the shapes and sizes of

biological objects (there are thirty million life

forms in nature and we have studied only five

million so far), one comes across a stupendous

variety in the geometry of shapes of these forms

and one may wonder whether this stupendous

variety is really necessary. Shakespeare in

Julius Caesar (act 4, scene 3) mentioned long

ago. and nature must obey necessity. Many

things can be obtained further from this

statement when one studies the shapes of plants

and animals in different areas of the world.

The thorny spikes of plants in desert places

remind one that the plants cannot afford to loose

water so the surface area is minimized and

nature must obey necessity. In this connection

students may be reminded of the Fibonacci

Numbers 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 .

If one looks at the geometrical structure of

sunflowers and pineapples, the proportions in

which the different petals and edges are

rearranged are in a Fibonacci fashion. A similar

structure can be observed if one studies the

patterns in nature, which give a wonderful

illustration of bionics. If one looks at the

Bawa bird and looks at the way its nest is

prepared, one is forced to believe that it

challenges the work of a modern architect. Its

complicated, light and can endure severe

tornadoes. The birds do it by instinct. Men

devise the utility of geometry through reasoning.

In this connection one may be reminded of the

discovery of Fractals.

Benoit Mandel coined the word Fractal in 1975

from Latin word Fractus which describes broken up

and irregular stone. Fractals are geometrical

shapes that contrary to those of Euclid are not

regular at all. They are irregular all over and

the same degree of irregularity exists in all

scales. A fractal object looks the same when

examined from far away and nearby. The difference

between classical and fractal geometry lies in

their opposed notion of dimension. In standard

geometry, dimensions come only in whole numbers

a straight line has dimension 1, a plane has

dimension 2, a solid has dimension 3.

But fractals as they have fragmented, broken

edges also have fractional dimensions. Strange

twilight zones have dimensions of 1.67, 2.60 and

log(2e) 1. One might think dimensions might

have to be whole numbers, line is a line and the

surface is a surface. But a Hilbert curve can

result by progressively dividing a square into

smaller squares and connecting the centers with a

continuous line. After a few reiterations, the

line formed by the centers approaches two

dimensional surface even though the line doesnt

close back upon itself. Its not a true bounded

plane. A fractal can be seen as a visual

representation of a simple numerical function

that has been reiterated, repeated again and

again. The Mandel Brot set as explained by him

is a set of complex numbers, which have the

property that you make a certain operation, take

the square. You take a number Z, you take the

square of Z and add C.

Then you square the result you check to see

whether you have gone outside circle of radius 2

and you plot this on a graph. As you keep going,

the set becomes drawn with great and greater

detail. But all you are doing is multiplying

something by itself and adding itself that is Z2

C. Everything squared C everything squared

C It may be difficult for a teacher to teach

the concept of fractional geometry but it is

quite easy to point out that nature uses a

language namely fractional geometry to produce

many of its products. The fractals can be found

everywhere in nature and Mandel Brot has produced

an explanation which, when graphed by the

computer, mimics the fractal structure of natural

phenomena as diverse as trees, river, human

vascular systems, clouds, coast lines, mammalian

brain form etc. Fractals, Mandel Brot said are

the very substance of our flesh.

John Milner of the Institute of advance studies

printed out that, fractal may give us a more

realistic human lung system than conventional

geometry does. Think of the very fine blood

vessels and air channels inter connecting with

each other in a complicated pattern. This does

not make any sense at all from the point of view

of classical geometry, where you study smooth,

differentiable objects, but the lung structure

can be described very fruitfully as a type

fractal set.

Cauliflower A natural fractal

Mathematics is seen by many as a very dry subject

in the world of art and music. But little do

people realize that the question of beauty in all

artwork is intricately related to the concept of

symmetry, which results from a special branch of

mathematics dealing with Group Theory. Hermann

Weyl in his book on symmetry explains that

symmetry is used in every day language in two

meanings. One, geometrical symmetry meaning

something well proportioned, well balanced and

symmetry denotes that sort of concordance of

several parts by which they integrate into a

whole. Beauty is bound up with symmetry. Without

any formal lessons about symmetry the modern

artist uses different kinds of symmetry in his

artwork. For example, bilateral symmetry is so

conspicuous in the structure of higher animals,

specially the human system.

In fact, if one thinks about a vertical plane

through the middle of the nose and if one knows

the structure of the face on one side of the

plane, that on the other can immediately be

reconstructed. The other forms of symmetry, which

the artist exploits unknowingly, are translation

symmetry and rotational symmetry the idea of

translation symmetry is simply that if an object

has translation symmetry then by merely shifting

it laterally, one would not know at all about the

shift. This would be true of infinitely large

wallpaper with designs in it. If the wallpaper is

really long enough, by shifting the wallpaper the

design would not be altered. In the case of a

wallpaper of limited length this would not hold

because of the special marking of the designs at

the two ends of the wall.

The spherical symmetry which has been a very

favorite concept for artists of all times simply

means that if one has a perfectly spherical ball

and it has been rotated through any diameter of

the sphere then it is virtually impossible to

know whether a sphere has at all been rotated or

not. Thus, symmetries are also inherent in the

laws of the small, which are dealt with in

Quantum Mechanics. There are many other kinds

of symmetries that can be visualized in the

structure of different shells, snow flakes,

leaves etc group theory which enables one to

understand the symmetries of nature on both large

and small scales can be taught in an abstract

fashion alright but it can also be taught with

interesting reference to life forms around us.

Starfishes which attract tourists on the beaches

are all examples which can be shown as

realizations of certain kinds of Group Theoretic

Structures.

So far we have referred to the application

aspects of mathematics. But the aspect of

mathematics that must not be forgotten is its

appeal to logic and analyticity. Mathematics is

not only doing sums and this is where the

students are bogged down. Mathematics enables one

to acquire an analytical frame of mind and to

argue logically. It has been found that

mathematically minded analysts should be the best

expositors of logic no matter where that logic

holds. No wonder politicians who, in general,

have no mathematical background cannot reason out

on many occasions and as a result take recourse

to emotional appeal of the sort used by Mark

Antonio in Julius Caesar. The world would be a

much better place to live in if the logic of

mathematics found its expression in public

dealings also. Many often view mathematics as

brainteasers but one does not realize that the

logic inherent in the brainteasers is actually

the logic that drives the electronic circuits and

computer network. The logic is simply of FALSE

and TRUTH. Here one may be reminded of one simple

brain teaser a man proceeds to a city A and

while driving to that city he comes to a

roundabout in which he has either to take a right

or left turn to that city.

Unfortunately the road sign has been blown off by

the wind. He could ask the petrol station on the

left or on the right and find out whether he has

to turn to left or right. He has been advised

that the people on one side always speak the

truth and those on the other side tell lie. Now,

how does he find out about the right direction by

posing one question to people there on either

side of the road? We all know the right question

should be which way the people on the other side

of the road would point me to the city A?

Obviously, he has to take the opposite of the

answer. Now, in this very example, one is dealing

with logic and it is logic that is at the heart

of operation of modern electronic circuitry. Many

tend to think that people having good commonsense

should not have problems in comprehending how

mathematics works. Although there is quite some

truth in this, the fact remains that mathematics

often defeats common sense. An example could make

this point clear. Consider the circumference of

the earth, which is approximately twenty five

thousand miles.

Now, a student may be asked the following

question if you take a string which is larger

than the circumference of the earth only by 25

feet and make a concentric circle around the

circumference of the earth, there will be a gap

between the two concentric circles. Now, could an

orange pass through this gap? Common sense says

that it would be almost impossible to do so. The

common thinking is that the extra 25 feet length

of the second circle concentric to the earth

circle will be so distributed that there would

hardly be any gap for a pea to pass through.

Mathematics says otherwise. Let ?r be the gap

between the two concentric circles. And if r and

r ?r be the two radii of the two concentric

circles,

r

Then, Thus five 9 inches footballs could be

passed through the said gap! Mathematics is not

always commonsense. The language of nature is

basically mathematical and logic is the kingpin

of mathematics. The logic of mathematics can be

entertaining also. An interesting example can be

the following. A person A meets his old college

friend B at a market place after a long time. A

asks B, I gather that you have married do you

have children? B replied Yes, I have 3

children. What are their ages, A asked. B

said, We were both students of mathematics so,

you have to figure out the ages, yourself I

shall of course, give you some tips.

The first tip B gives to A is the product

of the three ages is thirty six. That is not

enough and you know it also, said A. B now gives

a second tip, the sum of their ages is the roll

number you had in your college. A now ponders

for a moment and says that something else is

required. Then B gives the last tip, today is my

eldest sons birthday, I am going to by him some

musical equipment. A now immediately figures out

the ages of the three children without any

further delay. But how? The reader would do well

to determine the ages and find out that the logic

is very entertaining indeed! The greatest

challenge of mathematics teachers is to unfold to

the students the language and the logic of

mathematics through fun and delight and in ways

directly comprehensible to the students. In this

age of computer technology, we are talking of

various types of software but there is nothing

like the pleasure of understanding mathematics as

the logical software behind the working of

nature. Fishes provide an interesting example of

the geometrical programming of nature.

Fishes

One may ask if there are any mathematical

relations governing growth and form. A straight

answer may be difficult to give. As Darcy

Thompson pointed out in his book titled On Forms

and Shapes, that in case of fishes, the shape of

one can be related to that of another by

mathematical transformation. If a little oceanic

fish by the name of Argyropelecus olfersi is

placed on a Cartesian paper and if its outline is

transferred to a system of oblique coordinates

whose axes are inclined at an angle of 700, then

we get the mathematical figure of a fish which

actually represents a simple shear of the first

fish.

But it is indeed fascinating to note that such a

fish by the name of sternoplys diaphana actually

exists in nature. No wonder Dirac, the celebrated

theoretical physicist of all times pointed out

that God is the greatest mathematician. The

humans have discovered through the discovery of

force laws and the way numbers work in nature

that without the use of mathematics, life forms

would find it difficult to survive. So far we

have considered the ways and means of teaching

mathematics, the language of science in an

interesting manner. Let us now turn to interest

in science education.

4. Interest in Science Education During the

last few decades, the development of science and

technology has been so rapid, that it is becoming

gradually difficult for a teacher to cope with

such developments. Should the teacher be

conversant with all the scientific development

and teach all of those? This may sound to be a

difficult question. But the answer is simple. The

teacher may want to know many thing but (s)he

should not attempt to teach the students

everything under the sun. (S)he should teach them

the very basics on which the whole edifice of

science hinges, e.g. the conservation laws of

nature, the least principles of nature namely the

principle of least path, the principle of least

energy, principle of least action, the symmetry

principles in science, the multi-disciplinary

nature of science etc.

A science teacher should consider himself or

herself successful if (s)he has been able to make

his/her students ask the right question at the

right time. The principal goal of the science

teacher would be to generate a spirit of enquiry

in the minds of the students. Not all enquires

can be satisfied with words. Action is needed.

Science is not merely talking. Science is doing

things. But doing things for what? The answer is

for verifying how Nature works. And who should

do these things. Again, the answer is Yes for

students and No for teachers. In doing

scientific experiments, it must be ensured that

students are the key players and teachers are

passive watchers. Even for doing very simple

things, students need some equipment. And it is

in respect of equipment that a sorry state of

affairs exists in the schools and colleges of

developing countries. True, equipment costs

money.

The effort then should be to do the same set of

science experiments as is performed in developed

countries, but using local materials in the

students own environment. Experiments thus

designed, have to be innovative in nature and

must have the potential for attracting students

through elements of fun and delight. For example,

for the purposes of creation and of sound in a

media, tuning forks imported from abroad may not

be necessary in a rural setting a mango seed

with a little opening in it can act as an

excellent material for the vibration of air and

creation of sound two children can dive into a

pond and while under water at a distance from one

another, one can make a sound by clapping his

hands and the other can hear it these kinds of

things are fun and delight and make science easy

and attractive. Similarly, the demonstration of

the working principles of the flight of an aero

plane or the flight of a bird (which led to the

idea of the flight of an aero plane) can be made

by holding a sheet of paper before a running

table fan. On the curved sheet of paper

(resembling the wings of the plane), there is a

net upward thrust which keeps it upward thus the

basic scientific principle in the flight of the

plane is simple the rest is the matter of

involved technologies.

That water finds its own level is another

experiment that can be performed using local

pottery rather than imported glassware and the

students can have fun when they pour water into

the following pitchers having openings at

different heights. Figure Two pitchers

having openings at different heights.

The abovementioned simple principle namely water

finds its own level has profound applications in

the dredging of rivers. Dredging a river is of no

use unless a slope exists in the river bed --- a

point often missed out by administrators and

politicians. Similarly the law of cooling can be

verified by a student who could put some boiling

water in two buckets, and in one of the buckets

some water at room temperature could be added to

one of the buckets. The student could then verify

by measuring the temperature of water in both

buckets and find out that the one that has high

temperature water is cooling faster. This is one

of the simplest hands-on projects that one can

think of.

Another interesting hands-on science experiment

could be the measurement of Youngs Modulus, not

of a steel wire (which is one of the conventional

experiments in laboratories and does not greatly

ignite the imagination of students) but of the

biological material collagen tendon. This

experiment could demonstrate one of the

interesting examples of bio-physics and could

explain the mystery of lifting heavy weights with

the help of our muscles. The key point to note

here is that science is all around us in the form

of a wonderful interplay between living and inert

matter.

UNESCO, quite sometime ago, listed some 700

science experiments which everyone can do in a

book titled 700 Science Experiments. Many of

these are very interesting no doubt. But the

performing of some of these experiments involves

a cultural shock. For example, in a certain

experiment, a student has been asked to use a

beer can. The fact is that not only many people

in developing countries do not drink beer, they

simply do not know what a beer can looks like.

The materials chosen in scientific experiments,

especially in the case of improvised ones, must

be familiar and available to the students.

5. Teaching Science and Mathematics in an

integrated and inter-disciplinary manner. During

the last few decades, in all major scientific

developments, especially in the areas of ICT

(Information and Communication Technology) and

bio-technology including genetic engineering, the

interdisciplinary nature of science has been

brought out in a prominent way. The role of

physicists in unraveling the structures and

secrets of the DNA molecule, the role of

material scientists and of metallurgists in

devising special materials are becoming well

known. As explained earlier, even the symmetry

concepts of group theory including translational

invariance, reflection in variance, rotational

invariance and time reversal invariance are not

topics of interest to physicists and chemists but

also to artists who use some of these symmetries

(knowingly or unknowingly) in their art work, and

in their concepts of beauty.

Thus, the physicist teaching symmetry properties

in the laws of nature should draw the attention

of students to numerous fascinating examples of

these principles around their own life and

environment difficult things would look easy and

familiar. Now that all eyes are on Biology and

many people very rightly say that the twenty

first century might very well belong to molecular

biology and all its ramifications, let me cite an

example involving physics, biology and

environment. In a Unesco sponsored workshop at

Puna in 1986, I made a documentary film titled

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world

in which I tried to show that if a house has a

mother having a science background, then she

could explain some difficult concepts of physics,

chemistry and mathematics to her children in the

cozy environment of the garden, kitchen, drawing

room etc. In a scene in the film, a mother was

calling her son to breakfast as he had an

examination to take in the morning. The son came

downstairs running and as he touched some worm

potatoes on his plate on the dining table, he

said Ma it is very warm. The mother cut the

potato with a knife into four pieces and was

fanning those.

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When the son returned home, the mother eagerly

asked him how was your exam? the son replied,

It was all right Ma, but there was an odd

question which I could not reply in the question

it was asked why is it that in winter, we curl

up our bodies while sleeping in bed, while in

summer, we stretch our hands and feet while

resting.

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The mother said you could not answer only one

question dont be upset about this. Then I

appeared in the film and explained that the

mother could have taught her son the answer to

this question at the breakfast table.

Figure A Sliced Potato

As the mother sliced the potato into four pieces,

she was unknowingly but with a cultural practice,

generating more and more surfaces for the potato

to give out heat and cool down fast it is known

that the amount of heat an object exchanges with

its surroundings depends on the surface area of

the object. In winter, we curl up our bodies in

order to reduce the surface areas of body so that

we can remain warm. In summer, we maximize the

area, by stretching our arms and legs, so that we

lose more heat and keep cool. This simple

principle of heat exchange is also operative at

the very root of different shapes and sizes of

biological objects. Polar bears are large as

they have smaller surface areas compared to their

volume whereas desert bears are small having

large surface areas compared to their volumes.

Their shapes and sizes are commensurate with the

environment they are in. These matters of biology

and biodiversity and of thermodynamic principles

in physics are interconnected with each other

these things should be taught by the science

teacher in an interesting manner.

An interesting example of the (interdisciplinary)

nature of science and mathematics can be cited

while teaching matrices. Most of the students

know a matrix as being an array of numbers and

also are familiar with the addition and

multiplication of matrices etc. But when asked to

cite some (from life or nature) applications of

matrices, many seem to be groping for examples.

That the bus conductor follows a matrix while

collecting bus fares is not known to many .Also,

the following energy conversion matrix could

prove to be of immense interest to

mathematicians, physicists as well as energy

planners. One matrix could speak a million words.

Matrices

Magnetohydrodynamics Table Energy Conversion

Matrix

Examples of matrix elements a fire fly

Chemiluminescence

Solar cell (Matrix element Electromagnetic to

electrical)

Hydro electrical Plant

Matrix element Kinetic to electrical

There can be nothing more innovative than

making the children understand the fact that

nature works according to laws of science, and

that the very observant of the working of nature

can identify nature in the role of a teacher. In

fact, a good student of science, even at very

advanced stages, learns only a limited amount of

science from teachers and text-books, but can

learn a lot by simply looking at nature. The

teachers of science would do well to make the

students treat nature as teacher. 6. NATURE AS

TEACHER Consider for example a pond which is

found in almost all countries. A pond can be a

very good example of studying numerous flora and

fauna.

King fisher

Insects walking on the water surface of the pond

using the property of surface tension of

water.

Frogs spawning in masses of grey jelly floating

on the warm water.

Tadpoles wriggling among the weeds.

Water snails on the edge of the pond or on the

stems of water plants, devouring all kinds of

rotting matter and keeping the water of the pond

clean.

Water snake swimming gracefully.

Pond-beatles attacking smaller creatures

savagely.

Pond Skate gliding on the water.

Water scorpions

Water spider

Brilliant dragon-flies

Water lilly

Duckweed

Water hyacinths

All the organisms that dwell in the pond may

serve to give an illustration of bio-diversity

existing even in a limited area of nature.

So far we have discussed the instructional

management of the sheep (the students) it would

be in order to say a few words about the

management of the shepherds (teachers)

7. From the management of the sheep to that of

the shepherds Tending sheep has been regarded

as a holy job and most of the Prophets who were

given Divine Messages were regarded basically as

teachers (Ustads) and were shepherds. The

teachers of all subjects in general, and of

science and mathematics in particular, must be

accorded the honor for meeting the challenges of

the times. They must also be given incentives. In

this connection, I am reminded of a book titled

The Man Who Counted authored by Malba Tahan3.

In this book which is a collection of

mathematical adventures, is given the legend of

Beremiz Samir who, coming from the village of

Khoi in Persia, was a shepherd and used to tend

vast flocks of sheep.

For fear of losing lambs and therefore being

punished, he counted them several times a day. He

became so good in counting, that he could count

all the bees in a swarm and all the leaves in a

tree. Satisfied with his mathematical agility his

master granted him four months leave. During

this leave he showed wonderful feats to many, and

finally was offered the post of Vizier by Caliph

al-Mutasim of Baghdad. But Samir did not accept

the post. Science and Mathematics teachers do not

want to be Viziers but they at least want to be

paid reasonable salaries so that for purposes of

meeting the costs of living, they do not take up

many jobs and can remain faithful to one

profession only, namely teaching.

In some of the countries of Asia and presumably

of other continents, teachers salaries are very

low, and as a result they often do other jobs to

the detriment of their own profession. This

practice must be stopped. A recommendation that

could be made in respect of salaries of science

and mathematics teachers is that once a teacher

is evaluated for his qualification, experiences

and teaching potential, his salary could remain

the same whether he works in a school, college or

university. In other words, a teacher should be

judged by his intrinsic merit and not by the

place he is working in. Universities cannot

flourish if schools are neglected. We must

remember the saying The battle of Waterloo was

won in the playground of Eton.

8. Conclusion Science and mathematics are the

essential tools for the study of nature. While

utmost care should be taken to attract students

to these basic subjects through teaching in a

delightful manner, the teachers to be appointed

must be selected very judiciously. And once

selected, his salary structure must be logical.

It would be a great irony if teachers responsible

for upholding the logic of science and

mathematics are themselves not dealt with in a

logical way.

Talking of logic which connects science with

mathematics, one might come forward and say

rather pessimistically what is the use of

teaching logic in the present day world where

force is prevailing over logic? In this

connection, I would like to narrate a story told

in the book of Malba Tahan A lion, a tiger and

a jackal hunted a sheep, a pig and a rabbit. The

tiger was given the responsibility by the lion of

dividing the prey amongst themselves. The tiger

gave the tastiest of the prey, the sheep, to the

lion, kept the dirty pig for himself and gave the

miserable rabbit to the jackal. The lion was very

angry at this division and said who has ever

seen three divided by three giving a result like

that?

Raising his paw, the lion swiped the head of the

unsuspecting tiger so fiercely that he fell dead

a few feet away. The lion then gave the charge of

the division to the jackal who, having already

witnessed the tragedy of the tiger said to the

lion, the sheep is a feed worthy of a king, the

appetizing pig should be destined for your royal

plate. And the skittish rabbit with its large

ears is a savory bite for a king like you. The

lion praised the jackal and asked him how he

learnt this kind of division of three by two so

perfectly! The jackal replied I learnt from the

tiger. In the mathematics of the strong, the

quotient is always clear while to the weak must

fall only the remainder.

The ambitious jackal felt that he could live in

tranquility only as a parasite, receiving only

the leftovers from the lions feast. But he was

wrong. After two or three weeks, the lion, angry

and hungry, tired of the jackals servility ended

up killing him, just as he had the tiger. Thus,

the division of three by two realized with no

remainder could not save the jackal. This story

contains a moral lesson adulators and

politicians who move obediently in the corridors

of the powerful may gain something in the

beginning but in the end, they are always

punished. Therefore, there is no use in going

away from logic which is so inherent in science

and mathematics. The greater the number of people

who follow logic, the safer will be our earth to

live in.

(The author is President, Bangladesh Academy of

Sciences and Vice Chancellor, Southeast

University, Dhaka)

References 1 Symmetry by Herman Weyl,

Princeton University Press, Princeton, New

Jersey, 1952 2 700 Science Experiments for

everyone, compiled by UNESCO, Doubleday and

Company, Inc, Garden City, New York, 1958. 3

The Man who Counted by Malba Tahan, W.W. Norton

Company, USA, 1994.