1. What is “The Young Socratics”?
The Young Socratics is an educational program in Math and Science geared towards middle and high school students, with an emphasis on problem-solving, and on understanding the relevant subjects (Math and Science) using the lens of history and philosophy.
We believe that all the different subjects (Math, Science, Social Studies, Literature, Art, etc) need to be ideally integrated together into a coherent and meaningful body of knowledge for the student, rather than being compartmentalized into different subjects with little or no connection with one another. For example, when studying about political, economic, social and religious life in ancient Mesopotamia in history classrooms, the students should also be exposed to the mathematics and astronomy of the Babylonians; or for instance, while explaining the concept of motion in a physics class, an exposition on the motivation and history of the development of calculus should also be provided to the students. This should in fact be the primary way to introduce mathematical and scientific ideas. They should learn about the creative development of mathematical and scientific ideas in their historical context, rather than directly being told about their final forms in the present. They need to experience the intellectual journey of humans by encountering these ideas in the chronological manner in which they developed. They should experience the confusion, the frustration, the suspense, and the thrills of that human journey. This narrative (“story”) approach is bound to motivate students more, and lead to a better understanding of those ideas.
Along with a historical viewpoint, children should also be given problems to solve that would require them to think and discover what approaches might lead to the solution or answer. These problems can be of four types:
a) Historical problems: These problems are meant to make the students think about certain questions like past mathematicians or scientists might have thought about them. Here is an example — “If you were living in ancient Egypt or ancient Greece, without the tools and theories of modern science, would you have believed the earth was curved, or would you have believed it was flat? What reasons would you have offered in support of your beliefs?” The arguments offered by students can be explicitly ‘matched’ with the arguments of the ancient Greeks in support of a curved earth, given in the writings of Aristotle or Ptolemy. Once they understand (or who knows, perhaps even independently come up with) the reasons why the ancient Greeks believed the earth was curved approximately like a sphere, they can then be given a new problem — how would you compute the size of the earth? Such problems would provide the right context for introducing ideas from geometry, trigonometry and astronomy. This is what we believe is the ideal ambience to foster curiosity and creativity.
b) Problems on puzzles and games. Since children enjoy games and puzzles, such problems can also be a good launchpad for developing an interest in mathematical topics. For example, card games, roulette, Tic Tac Toe, Soduku, Chess, Rubik’s Cube etc. can all be used for introducing ideas from probability, permutations and combinations, and other topics from discrete mathematics.
c).Problems illustrating aesthetic beauty: These are problems where some of the solutions have elegance and beauty to them (e.g, certain proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem, or Euclid’s proof that there are infinitely many prime numbers or “Proofs from the Book” by Paul Erdos ), or problems which have the potential to reveal unexpected connections between different areas of mathematics (e.g, number theory and geometry, or algebra and geometry)
d) Problems illustrating applications to technology: These could be applications of math or science to the development of technology (e.g, after learning about transistors and logic gates, can you build an adder?), or measurement of some quantity (e.g, computing the height of a lighthouse or the width of a river).
2. What does the name “The Young Socratics” signify?
Our approach to teaching the young minds enrolled in our program is to lead them step by step to new ideas by asking them appropriate questions (formulated as problems), and giving them some time to take those ‘discovery’ steps themselves as they try to grapple with those questions. We would like to evoke answers from within them, rather than directly laying down before them all the steps to the final solution. We also believe in encouraging students to ask questions for which we may not have the answers (and even open-ended questions for which even the best scholars may not have agreed-upon answers). They should learn to think critically, argue with themselves over these questions, and to argue with others. This scrutinizing approach to our subjects that we aim to teach our students resembles the Socratic method (used by the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates), hence the name.
3. Will my child improve her grades in her subjects?
We believe that improvements in grades or scores in competitions should naturally follow as a good “side effect” of our program. Our main aim (however) is to cultivate in the student a strong desire and hunger to keep learning, and to derive great pleasure in that learning.
4. Who are your instructors and what is their background?
Please see about us page.
5. What are your offerings throughout the year?
We’re planning to have after-school and weekend classes throughout the academic year catered for middle and high school students. These include:
- AP Subject Classes (high school)
- UC A-G List Courses (middle and high school)
- Summer Camps (middle and high school)
- And anything for the fun of learning …
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you are interested in attending/shaping these classes. The curriculum is under planning and development. Also if a sufficient number of people express interest in any particular subject or topic, we would be happy to tailor our classes to meet those needs. We do plan to align ourselves with the school curriculum, although we will cover the material in a different way, blending math and science with social studies and literature.
If students have doubts that can’t be answered due to time constraints in the classroom, we will try to answer them by making videos. That will be another purpose of the videos.
6. Do you cater towards Math and Science Olympiads?
We believe with our teaching methodology and the repertoire of problems and problem solving techniques, the students will be rendered fit to tackle Olympiad problems. We do include selected problems from several competitive examinations of national and international level in our offerings. However, a separate program for specific training in respective Olympiads is on the cards for near future.