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Tikichuela Mathematics

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

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

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018






September 2017
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

About the innovation

What is Tikichuela Mathematics?

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.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


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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Implementation steps

Getting started

Begin by developing a series of lessons and scripting the lesson plans.

Start by defining the grade level and subject area. The first year, we developed the preschool mathematics curriculum and later added a grade level per year until we had Tikichuela Mathematics from K through 3rd grade. We are now busy with Tikichuela Science for the preschool level.

Having selected a focus area, put together a working group of pedagogical, bilingual instruction and subject matter experts, responsible for drafting a master plan based on the curriculum. The masterplan is simply a table or spreadsheet that divides the curriculum learning goals into concrete goals for each week of the academic year with the play based activities to achieve the goals.

Contract scriptwriters (Tikichuela Mathematics had 3) who will develop the scripts for the audio recordings. The number of scripts will depend on the curriculum. Examples of scripts and audio lessons are available on our site. In bilingual classrooms, all key concepts should be repeated in both languages. The working group should review each script and provide continuous feedback to the scriptwriters.

Since early mathematics content is similar across countries, you could choose to simply adjust the Tikichuela lesson plans and audio scripts to your own cultural and language context, which would simplify this first step.

Time to record the lessons
Record the audio lessons and validate them in real classrooms to ensure their quality.

Contract a recording studio and bilingual actors/singers. The number of actors required will depend on the scripts, but if you use the Tikichuela scripts 4 actors are required.

Record 5 audio lessons and validate them in a classroom setting, taking careful notes of any required changes. Tweak the audios, by incorporating the adjustments. You may for example change words that the students did not comprehend, or adjust the length of pauses if more time is needed for an activity. After the first batch, you can record and validate larger batches of audio lessons.

Your working group should do a second round of validation during the first academic year, taking careful note of required tweaking to the audios.

Save and distribute to teachers the complete set of audio lessons for the entire academic year on USB drives. CDs scratch too easily for repeated usage. 

Develop complementary materials
Create supporting guides and documents to ensure the success of the program.

Develop a teacher guide and any student materials to accompany the audio lessons, as well as reinforcement materials for individual students. Please see examples on the site.

Contract an illustrator to develop the graphic identity of the program and design the materials. Alternatively, you can use the same identity and materials as in Paraguay. Print the materials on glossy cardstock.

Purchase counters, geometric solids, clocks, or any other materials that are required for the activities in the audio lessons for your specific grade level.

Support teachers' professional development

In order for the program to be implemented successfully, teachers will need training on the use of the new materials.

Organize a two-day workshop to introduce the program to teachers, including sensitization of the importance of mathematics, and providing them with hands-on training in how to operate the radios.

Organize lesson study groups of teachers who will meet every two weeks to model and discuss lessons together.

If your school system has a cadre of expert teachers, organize them to provide monthly in-class tutoring visits to each teacher.

Be alert for any unexpected problems! Some of the challenges experienced by Tikichuela Mathematics have been quite surprising. Pre-school teachers weren’t used to using singing and dancing as an approach to working with the children and needed the training to develop these skills. As one teacher put it “our education culture underlines the value of silence in the classroom, not dance and song.”  

Continue to monitor and evaluate

Keep checking the success of the audio lessons and watch out for any unexpected issues.

Tikichuela Mathematics' original audio recordings had to be adjusted to take gender equality into account as some teachers were inviting boys rather than girls to take part in the activities. When the audio instructed the teachers to choose a student, they nearly always chose a boy to demonstrate, answer questions or solve problems. The researchers recognized this and changed the audio recordings to ask the teacher to equally choose girls and boys throughout the recording. As a result of these changes, the gender gap was reduced.

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