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Teaching Children to Connect the Dots++ #20

++ Next Genius Scholarship | Upcoming Events and Courses

Quote of the Week

“What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ‘em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form.” Charlie Munger, Billionaire Investor, Warren Buffett’s ‘right-hand man’

Hi, this is the GenWise team– we bring out this newsletter to help parents and educators to complement the work of formal schools and associated systems. We can help our children thrive in these complex times only by exchanging ideas and insights and collaborating on this.

In this week’s main post we talk about the importance of helping learners connect isolated pieces of knowledge. Asking learners to estimate unknown quantities is one powerful way of doing this, and we elaborate on our work with getting children to do so.

If you have a child in grade 12 looking at pursuing Liberal Arts in the USA, do check out the information about the Next Genius Scholarship from our friends there.

You are invited to be an early member and beta-tester of the GenWise Club (ages 13-90), a community of interested students, parents, and educators. Check out this link for more about the club and how to join it. It is open to all in the current beta phase. 

Join this conversation on learning, by commenting on our posts, or joining our club community for more regular and closer interactions.


Teaching Children to Connect the Dots

Upcoming Courses @GenWise

Upcoming External Events

The Next Genius Scholarship Program

Teaching Children to Connect the Dots

How many barbers are there in Bangalore? (or the city you live in)

Attempt this question. After you estimate this number, can you find a way to check its reasonableness? Now ask your child, a family member or a friend to take a shot at this question. Compare their approaches with yours. Share your approach in the comments to this post.

In the process of answering this question, we need to think about what is known and what relationships connect the known to the unknown (the number of barbers in Bangalore). The known consists of facts and reasonable assumptions- like the population of Bangalore (10 million), males have haircuts once a month on the average, a typical barber performs 200 haircuts a month, a haircut costs Rs. 150 on the average etc. Using these ‘knowns’, we might estimate the number of barbers in the city to be 25,000 (5 million haircuts divided by 200 haircuts). We could check the reasonableness of this estimate by estimating the average monthly revenue per barber= Rs. 150 x 200= Rs. 30,000 which sounds right as most barbers are not well-to-do. (We don’t know what percentage of this revenue the barber makes- probably not more than 50%).

Contrast the above thinking process with doing a google search to learn the answer (which may be much more precise). The process of thinking through such questions from first principles develops reasoning skills, we learn to relate things to each other, and consolidate our knowledge, facts and ideas in a structured fashion.

Estimation is an essential skill (more so in the 21st century, where google can tell us everything – thereby losing opportunities to think in a modular fashion), it’s no surprise that this is a standard interview feature for tech/ consulting firms. Rajesh Panchanathan, GenWise Co-Founder

Unfortunately students are rarely asked such questions. Most facts or ideas we are taught, are often disparate and unconnected. Over a period of time, if we make connections between these facts, thereby creating meaning, we remember these facts and are able to use what we know effectively. If we do not make connections, we either forget these facts or they become meaningless to us (do you remember ‘distributive property’ or ‘islet of langerhans’ but nothing more?). For long-lasting learning, the pieces of knowledge should support each other through connections between them.

Questions and problem sets after each chapter do this to some extent. As students solve these problems, they do make deeper connections about the material they have learnt. Yet many connections are not made- to concepts in other subjects/ topics, real-life experiences, or to develop an intuitive feel for the concept. For example, do students-

see the connection between cells in biology and atoms in chemistry?

have an idea of the volume of liquid a teaspoon can hold? (and can they confidently investigate the question- how far can a car travel on a teaspoon of petrol?)

Teachers and adults can help children to start making connections and develop their reasoning skills by asking such questions. If this is done consistently, students will develop the habit of asking deeper questions, making connections on their own and will start noticing inconsistencies in ‘facts’. In short, they will start becoming critical thinkers by exercising their ‘reasoning muscles’.

At GenWise, it is standard practice for us to ask students such questions in our courses, irrespective of the topic. We even have a course titled ‘Intelligent Estimation’ that is focused on developing the skill of estimation, a great approach to making connections between things.

GenWise mentor, Sukanya Sinha says that in helping children develop the skill of estimation, in this course, she takes them through 3 stages-

developing a quantitative awareness of the world around them (e.g. the tree is around 30 ft. high instead of ‘very tall’)

appreciating the value of rough ‘order of magnitude’ of estimates

coming up with an estimate in situations where data is insufficient

I urged students to use Google minimally, try to draw from their own experiences, not use the calculator at all and observe connections carefully. They realized how a party game of estimating the number of candies in a jar could be connected to estimating the number of stars in a galaxy or finding the total mass of Corona viruses of the infected population of the world. The counter-intuitive numbers often came as big surprises. Sukanya Sinha, Physicist and GenWise Mentor

Sukanya elaborates on her approach and experience of teaching this course in this blog post.

If you try such exercises with your children or students, or want to discuss this further. please share your thoughts in the comments section or write to

Resources for learning estimation and reasoning skills

The art and science of approximation in engineering, taught by Prof. Sanjoy Mahajan at MIT; see our related blog post.

Upcoming Courses @GenWise

Details of upcoming GenWise courses are available here. The next course coming is the popular course by GenWise mentor, Dr. Bhooshan Shukla on parenting teenagers.

Upcoming External Events

Using Maths and Computer Science to Study Evolution- Join ‘Talk to a Scientist’ in their next episode in which scientists Dr. Karishma Kaushik and Snehal Kadam talk to student guest Hetvi Jethwani, an undergraduate at IIT Delhi in the B. Tech Mathematics and Computing Program, about this topic. Saturday, Aug 21 2021, 5-6 pm IST. For ages 6-16. Register here. (Free)

Algebra through Activities (for high school teachers) JN Planetarium will be organizing a virtual workshop for high school teachers. The workshop includes discussions related to Algebra through hands-on-activities that can be used in classroom teaching. Thursday, Aug 26, 2021, 10:30 AM-12:30 PM. Register for the workshop at…/algebra-through…/ET00313947. The fee is just INR 100.

Introducing Pearson Cogmed– on Saturday, August 21, 2021 at 4 pm is moderated by Shweta Sharan, who says

“As a mother to a neuro diverse child, I am part of many international dyslexia groups on Facebook and many parents recommended the Cogmed working memory training software.

We are doing a program on Cogmed, a working memory training software and intervention programme. I was skeptical but I asked a few friends and special educators I know about Cogmed. Turns out, a few of them are Cogmed coaches and tell me that it works well when implemented well.

I am teaming up with Linguaphile UK to conduct a free webinar on Pearson’s new software for children with Learning Difficulties. Cogmed is a peer-reviewed and evidence-based program that now has many updates.

As we know, working memory is at the root of many challenges for children with learning difficulties, ADHD and other neuro diversities. So will Cogmed work? How does it work? How can a child transition from pure recall to recording something in writing or applying himself/herself?

Attend this free webinar, ask your questions, watch the demo and find out more. Sign up here.

“I am enough” – Finding joy and meaning in work and life in the ParamaTalks series is on Thursday, 26th August from 6.30-7.00pm. This talk by Dr. Ramya Ranganathan is hosted by Geeta Prakash, who was the site director at the GenWise Summer Program 2019. Geeta is the founder of Parama Naturals– who offer some great personal-care wellness products!

Ramya has degrees from IIT Madras, IIM Ahmedabad and London Business School. She has been awarded by the MHRD (Govt of India) for being one of the top 15 innovators in higher education in India, has won an academy of management best paper award, has delivered 3 TED talks and published a book of poems called “I’m choosing Life”. She leverages her corporate experience (ICICI, Citibank and Infosys), as well as learnings from over a decade of being a faculty at IIM Bangalore to coach individuals to be more effective in their personal and professional lives.

Here is the link for the talk.

ParamaTalks: Conversations on self-care and wellness focusing on physical, mental and emotional well being with experts to enable people to make well-informed choices for sustainable healthier lifestyles.

The Next Genius Scholarship Program

Established in 2014, The Next Genius Foundation is a registered charitable trust in India with a vision to identify world changers and connect them with outstanding University scholarships in the United States.. In the last 6 years, Next Genius partner colleges have awarded scholarships worth $20 million, helping 170 students to pursue their undergraduate education in the US. In 2021-22, together, we hope to award over 100 scholarships to students from India. 

Application for the Next Genius Scholarship Program is now open and Grade 12 students are considered for full-tuition scholarships for their under-graduation at some of the top Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities in the US.. Learn more on


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