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Ribbon HUNDRED 2018
How can play based mathematics reduce gaps between rural and urban schools?

Tikichuela Mathematics

A play based approach to teaching mathematics using Interactive Radio to overcome attainment gaps in rural Paraguay.

What is Tikichuela Mathematics?

Emma Näslund-Hadley Lead Education Specialist, IDB
“The Tikichuela program managed to decrease student learning gaps through the use of a simple technology that helped make sure that every preschooler – independent of language, household income, type of school or geographic area – have access to the same high quality mathematics lesson”

Emma Näslund-Hadley Lead Education Specialist, IDB

Mathematics is key to understanding the world around us. Numeracy skills open up opportunities for employment and contribute to the prosperity of nations. In regions of Paraguay, children were leaving school without these important skills. There were large attainment gaps between rural and urban schools and between Spanish and Guaraní speaking students.

This problem was higher in rural areas where the quality of teachers was inconsistent due to a lack of pre-service training. Attempts to transform early mathematics education had not been successful as gaps in pedagogical knowledge hindered teachers’ ability to translate the curriculum documents into their practice.

Tikichuela Mathematics recognized these challenges and came up with an imaginative solution. Every lesson was turned into a script and recorded to create an interactive radio programme full of music, theatre, singing, and games. This enabled all teachers to deliver a high-quality lesson regardless of their own knowledge or ability.

Mathematics lessons in Paraguay traditionally rely on learning by rote and by memorization but Tikichuela Mathematics uses a play based pedagogy. Friendly characters guide them through the audio lessons and children learn actively through dance, theatre, song, and movement.

Rather than replacing the teacher, the audio lessons guide the teacher in the delivery of the lesson to ensure that all children get access to high-quality mathematics instruction. The children love their mathematics lessons and their obvious joy prompted the Panamanian government to adopt the Tikichuela programme.

To ensure that all children learn, the lessons repeat all key concepts in both Spanish and Guaraní. Tikichuela Mathematics has been shown to raise the achievement for Guaraní speakers, who traditionally perform more poorly than their Spanish speaking peers, and has been particularly beneficial for bilingual children who hear the lesson in both languages.

Teachers don’t need much initial training to start using Tikichuela Mathematics. There is some training in the days before school starts, and teachers receive in class tutoring with modeling of teaching and feedback during the school year. In addition, groups of teachers meet regularly to discuss challenges and successes of specific lessons.

The project started with preschool, but based on the success, it has been expanded to 1st and 2nd grade and audios are currently also being developed for 3rd grade. Moreover, a Tikichuela Science program is currently being piloted in preschools in the department of Caaguazú.

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Innovation Overview
3 - 7
Age Group
1 992
Tips for implementation
Adoption of the Tikichuela Mathematics approach requires some time and a few resources including mathematical manipulatives, printed materials such as number cards, audio lessons and a way to play the audio lessons. A few months should be calculated to adapt the audio lessons to the local context and language. After a few days of training, it could be implemented immediately. One teacher could implement this but for maximum effect it would be better for a whole school to adopt the programme.
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HundrED Review

Tikichuela Mathematics is very simple. It doesn’t rely on fancy software. It’s low tech and it works. It’s been incredibly beneficial for reducing learning gaps in Paraguay.


In just the first 5 months, based on an experimental evaluation, this program in Paraguay saw an increase in mathematics learning of 9.2%. Pupils in rural areas improved even more than in urban areas.


Tikichuela Mathematics started in Paraguay and is now being used in Panama. The concept is highly scalable as mathematics curricula are broadly similar the world over. The audio recordings would need to be adapted because of some specifically Paraguayan cultural references and to translate it to the language/s used in your school.


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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

Getting started
Begin by developing a series of lessons and scripting the lesson plans.
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Time to record the lessons
Record the audio lessons and validate them in real classrooms to ensure their quality.
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Develop complementary materials
Create supporting guides and documents to ensure the success of the program.
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Support teachers' professional development
In order for program to be implemented successfully, teachers will need training on the use of the new materials.
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Continue to monitor and evaluate
Keep checking the success of the audio lessons and watch out for any unexpected issues.
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