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Learning Math In Chechen

Soviet math lesson, 1964
Soviet math lesson, 1964
Education officials in Chechnya have announced a plan to resurrect local-language instruction in elementary schools. Chechen children, who are conversationally fluent in their native tongue, have been taught exclusively in Russian since the 1930s. President Ramzan Kadyrov, who grows daily less shy about his nationalist sentiments, thinks it's time for Chechen to stage a return as the primary language of instruction.

Chechnya is a land of novelists, poets, and bards, all of them free to choose from no fewer than 25 cases and a dozen verb tenses in reaching for that perfect, utterly nuanced metaphor. So it's only natural that the first subject to be taught in the native tongue will be.... math.

Some teachers have complained, saying Chechen, despite its wealth, "lacks words for mathematical terms." But defenders say the language is more than adequate for teaching basic addition and subtraction to 6- to 10-year olds.

Math, moreover, is the only subject for which a local-language textbook has already been published. Let's just hope it has better luck than a brand-new Chechen grammar text, which was subject to a summary page-stripping after an alert reader suggested someone important might take offense at a section reading "I don't want to be like Ramzan. I want to be good and honest."

-- Daisy Sindelar

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