Going far, wide and deep with a book -“How Old is Muttaji?”

An old favourite PBS cartoon serial called Superwhy! used to declare  “look in a book” to find the solution to any problem. Our household took that rather seriously. No matter whether the current fancy is about history or mathematics or travel and places, I diligently look for a book on it.

Thus I have accrued books like
…The “Beetle  Boy” series  -as my son loves all the creepy crawlies
… 101 Things You Wish You’d Invented . . . and Some You Wish No One Had for the claims to be a scientist
… Sir Cumference And The First Round Table​ – a tongue-in-cheek account of how diameter, radius and circumference all got their names as they tried to design a better-shaped table for King Arthur and his knights
…Natasha Sharma’s Squiggles takes a walk for Punctuation

Today I would like to share a very simple but delightfully engaging  book “How old is Muttaji?”by Roopa Pai ,that is available on Pratham’s story weaver. Deceptively simple looking, the book seamless blends entertainment of a book with myriad interests that children may have .

The two kids turn detectives and plunge into  a journey through Muttajji’s scattered memories and try to discover the clues from India’s history’s timelines in their quest to crack the big mathematical puzzle , exactly how old is their very very old Muttaji?

As the great grandmother pulls milestone points of important events, the kids try to plug in the events into a timeline to arrive at an age. The well thought out clues from a gold medal for the local Maharaja ,  to when trains became “clean”, to the inauguration of the KRS  dam  and Gandhiji’s Quit  India speech touch on history, science  and even law , when she mentions the marriageable age was 15 then! Finally the kids arrive with a series of estimates and tweaks to Muttaji’s correct age and it is indeed calls for celebration!!!

#History and Geography

Explore the history of trains and see how the clean trains came about.

Explore the events mentioned in the book.

Explore the importance of time in History with respect to periodizations

Explore Geographical time scales or even cosmological time

#Mathematics and Estimation

…How would you determine some one’s age if they didn’t remember it? Where else could you find clues?

…Talk about estimates and possible variation

… Explore history of calendars. Think of why they would have tried  to measure time.  

… Explore  the need for standarising time. Did you know before transcontinental railways and the telegraph and the introduction of Standard Time in the 1880s different countries, states, and even neighbouring towns, kept their own time with no attempt at consistency.


…Muttaji is a term for great grandmother. Try and make a table for relative names that are common or very similar across languages like amma, aai, maa

…Use this as a starting point and explore roots of words .

… Some older cultures have little or no time orientation and thus behave as if it really did not exist at all. The Pirahã tribe of the Amazon use a language that has no past tense, and everything exists for them only in the present: The Hopi tribe of Arizona also have a language that lacks verb tenses, and their language avoids all linear constructions in time. The closest the Hopi language comes to a sense of time are one word meaning “sooner” and another meaning “later”.

What role does language and verbs have in reinforcing the effect of time as commodity that is running out?

#GreyMatterQs to think deeper

… How would you keep track of dates if there were no calendars in the world? Does time and date really needed or do we only remember moments in time?

And ponder on these quotes from the Power of Now:

“Why does the mind habitually deny or resist the Now? Because it cannot function and remain in control without time, which is past and future, so it perceives the timeless Now as threatening. Time and mind are in fact inseparable.”

“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now. Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”

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