What is Kanakku Koottam?
Kanakku Koottam (Math Collective) is a collective of people who like to talk mathematics. We realize that at present mathematics has been reduced to an academic subject devoid of any human or material connections. Not only that, lack of historicity in treatment gives it an impression of an eternal mystic entity which is beyond the reach of normal human beings. It is presented as collections of incomprehensible abstract problems and solutions which are dealt with bland logic. In the few instances of application, it is used as a tool to address problems arising in the elite branches of science and technology. Around us, class rooms are the only place where mathematics is dealt with and the discourse there is nothing but sermoning. Subjecting the students to banal repetitions of what is already given in text books, the teachers desperately try to deliver their mathematical knowledge. There is no room for proper dialogue with in the walls of class rooms without which engagements with mathematics become an alienating experience. We also understand that there is nothing special about the way mathematics is dealt with. It is in fact the reflection of degenerative character of present-day education in general, which everybody seems to be agreeing with.
It is this bizarre and suffocating state of affairs which prompted us to start talking mathematics outside the class rooms. Our intention is to go beyond the rhetorical narrative of mathematical abilities of isolated geniuses, and to bring the aspect of collective learning through dialogue in mathematics. In this effort, so far it has been a refreshing experience.
What do we do?
Kanakku Koottam exists as meetings of its members. Members meet once or twice in a week at an appropriate time and place. The topics of discussion in a particular session could be specific as decided in the previous session or something general. The primary objective of the discussions is to deliberate on the questions what is mathematics and what are its methods? Whenever possible, the historicity of the topic under consideration is brought up to reveal the evolution of relevant ideas and concepts. The emphasize is on the fact that mathematics is a marvelous human creation and its beauty is best appreciated when the historical context and efforts of people behind its creation are understood. Rather than getting into the technicalities, which are usually highlighted as the crux of mathematics, the discussions focus on placing the particular result or concept in the body of related knowledge, thus developing an aesthetic appeal of the subject. In contrast to the popular mathematics narratives which eulogize individuals as super humans and results as enigmatic, Kanakku Koottam tries to identify the social contexts of mathematicians and their creations. With the deserved appreciation of individual brilliance, the members try to look into mathematics and mathematicians as creative manifestations of human beingâ€™s collective endeavors.