Numbers have always fascinated Palliyara Sreedaran who, at the tender age of six amazed his teacher by counting till one thousand. He studied mathematics, he taught mathematics and he obviously ‘wrote’ mathematics, you could say. The former teacher and arithmetic enthusiast has written around 121 books so far, and more than 100 of them are about mathematics. Sreedaran wrote stories, poems, riddles and even plays incorporating his favorite subject to entice his students.
It all began from a tea shop
Sreedaran hails from the prestigious ancestral home of Kathivannor Veeran and Amer Veeran in Malabar. Born in 1950 to Ameri Koran and Palliyara Parvathi Amma, Sreedaran, from the age of four, used to man the counter of a tea shop run by his father. He learned to count and by the time he started school, he had byhearted alphabets and numbers.
He graduated in Mathematics from NSS College Mattanoor and took a B.Ed degree from Calicut. As a young maths teacher, he enlightened the students of the same school he studied in. The writing bug had caught him young and he wrote both prose and verse. In the early 1970’s, when the word ‘computer’ was alien to Malayalis, Sreedaran had written about it.
While working as a teacher, Sreedaran realized the real reason why students dreaded mathematics and why they continued to fail in the subject. There was not even one decent book on mathematics and the teachers kept on repeating the same old formulas in the same old pattern. Sreedaran began his stint as a writer by publishing ‘Common Errors In Mathematics’, a book about the habitual mistakes in the subject. But the turning point was in 1977 when he published his next book, a collection of articles called ‘Prakrithiyile Ganitham’.
A math expert who visited his school when it won the Chakeeri Ahmedkutty Award for the best school in the state was impressed by Sreedaran’s way of writing. He invited Sreedaran to Thiruvananthapuram to create a handbook for teachers. Through stories and poems, he made the kids love the subject instead of being scared about it.
He also introduced easy shortcuts in the form of riddles to learn maths in a fun way. After 29 years of dealing with arithmetic, Sreedaran retired himself from the job in 1999 to become a full-time writer.
Sreedaran has written books in both English and Malayalam. He has also written a few biographies. Almost all the leading publishers in Kerala, viz., NBS, DCBooks, Prabat, Green Books, Kairali, and Poorna, have published his works. He even runs a publishing house called Genius Books at Kannur.
But unfortunately, Sudhakaran encountered loss in the publishing business and there are people who are yet to pay him up in lakhs. The decision to retire himself when he had six more years of service, only added to his financial woes. Sreedaran complains that though his books are widely appreciated by people, they have not reached the kids as he expected. The different governments did not even care to include at least one of Sreedaran’s books in the curriculum.
Although he was the longest-serving general secretary of the Mathematics Association in which all the schools in the state are members, not even one of his works found a place in the list of essential books in the libraries.
It was Sreedaran who took the initiative to introduce math fest for schoolchildren in Kerala apart from the already existing Science fest. He even formed the rules and regulations of the fest and was the organizer of the fest for 10 years. He also served as the director of the science park at Kannur for six years.
Currently, Sreedaran is the director of Balasahitya Institute and lives in Thiruvananthapuram. He is also the chief editor of Thalir magazine in which ace poetess Sugatha Kumari is also a chief editor. The government has honored him with an award for overall contribution to children’s literature and many teaching awards.
Like the famous Chacko mash of Spadiakm, Sreedharan too believes that math defines every aspect of the universe. He even wrote a book called ‘Ganitham- Bhoolokathinte Spandanam’. But Sreedharan does not appreciate the ways of Chacko mash when it comes to teaching math. He believes that though the teachers are lenient these days, math continues to scare students in schools.
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