ITR - Frequently Asked Questions

By KP Mohanan and Tara Mohanan

ITR - Frequently Asked Questions

By KP Mohanan and Tara Mohanan

If you have any questions that have not been answered below, please send them to

Question 1: I really want to do this course. But I am afraid I have forgotten all the 10th grade Math. Can I still register? I have the curiosity and the inclination. But math somehow won’t make friends ...

Do register, whether you remember or have forgotten the tenth-grade math.

The only condition is that you have completed K-10. Whether you remember anything in it is irrelevant. I (KPM) too, have forgotten most of the math that I learned in my secondary school. And not just math, but the other subjects too.

The math you are going to learn in this course is going to be unlike anything you encountered in your school. Our emphasis will be on imagination, insight, intuition, and what Coleridge called 'esemplastic imagination', combined with clarity, precision and rigour. School math has none of these.

The only thing you need to fear is fear itself. Fear is crippling, and would make you incapable of learning! 


Question 2: How much time are we expected to devote to this course?   

To make a decision on how much time you should invest in learning from this course, you need to bear in mind the following points:

A)    GOAL: The educational goal of the course is to help learners acquire the capacity to do research. 

B)    MEANS: The course plans to achieve its goal through 

         (1)    a one-hour zoom session once a week, which includes 
                 a) 30 to 40minutes of exposition, and 
                 b) 20 to 30 minutes of Q and A

        (2)    learning materials distributed to the learners prior to the zoom session (one chapter of a textbook, about 10 pages in each chapter) 

        (3)    A discussion forum 

C)    ASSESSMENT: This course does not have the component of teacher-assessment (exams, tests, project work, ...) for the teacher to find out 

         (1)    whether the learners have acquired what the course expects them to learn, and 

         (2)    how well they have learnt what the course expects them to learn.

D) Credit and Grades: This course does not provide any credit or grades. All that this course offers is an opportunity to learn something valuable.  

Given C and D, the learner is free to invest any amount of time to learn from the course. For instance,

Leaner L-1 may decide to invest zero time on B1-3. That learner will learn nothing, which is fine as far as the course instructor is concerned. 

Learner L-2 may decide to invest time (i.e., one hour a week) on B-1 and zero time on B-2 and B-3. That learner will acquire a rudimentary understanding of the nature and component of research. 

Learner L-3 may decide to invest time not only on B-2 but also on B-2. How much that learner learns is proportional to the time and effort invested by the learner on B-2. Assuming that it takes about four or five minutes to read through a ten-page chapter if the learner reads it just once it means one hour a week on B-1.

Learner L-4 may decide to read it twice, this time very slowly, thinking about each section, each para, and important concepts, consulting the web on the concepts (s)he thinks (s)he doesn't clearly understand,  jotting down his/her questions on what (s)he is not clear about or would like to find out more. Learner L-4 would learn much more than learner L-3 

Learner L-5 may decide to invest the same amount of time that L-4 invests on B-1 and B-2, but in addition, invest time on practice exercises, and discussing the concepts and exercises with other learners. L-5 will learn far more than L-4 

How much time would L-5 be investing in the course? It would be three to four hours a week, ten to twelve hours a week, or twenty to thirty hours a week. That is for L-5 to decide, depending on how much (s)he wants to learn. The instructor cannot make that decision. 

Suppose you take a course in painting taught by a master painter, or in music taught by a master singer. The class session is once a week. But beyond that class session, the learner may also decide to invest a certain amount of time on what is called saadhakam in South Indian Classical music and riyaaz in North Indian Classical music. The degree of expertise the learner acquires would be proportional to the time and effort invested by the learner in saadhakam/riyaaz. No painting/music instructor can make the student learn: all that they can do is provide a learning opportunity and guidance, and simply hope that as many learners would use that opportunity to learn what they want to learn. This remark applies to research as well.  

Now, we said all this in the context of items C and D above. But suppose this course was to be offered for credit, and it had a system of assessment.  How much time would you need in order to get pass marks, with the explicit understanding that everything you learnt from this course would be wiped clean from your mind in six months after the final exams (which is typically what happens in most courses in mainstream education anyway.) Our answer would be about two to three hours a week, including the time spent on the weekly live sessions. Whether you would be satisfied with that state of affairs is for you to decide.  

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