Current Date:August 9, 2020

When Math Becomes a “Subject From The Gate of Hell” (Article)

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The dream of 193,882 students getting into the various tertiary institutions in the country is automatically shattered as a result of failure in the 2018 WASSCE Math result. Every year we ask the same question, “What’s wrong?”

There are many views, suggesting answers to the question and the majority of them seem to be shifting the blame on the students. Emphatically, people suggest it was the laziness of the students that resulted in their failure. However, if you’ve been analyzing the data, more especially comparing them with the other nations that Ghana takes the WASSCE alongside with, you will agree with me that the problem isn’t one we can only put the blame on the students and then go to sleep. I find it difficult to accept that a lazy student will pass all subjects with good grades and fail only Mathematics. What we see over the years is that our students pass other subjects well, and fail in Mathematics. That can’t be a mark of lazy students.

It is apparent that you can’t give yourself wholly to something that you don’t like or find interesting. Our students haven’t shied the truth away from us – they always tell us they don’t like Mathematics. Just before writing this article, I read a tweet by a student saying “Math is a subject straight from the gates of hell.” That’s how many students see the subject. This perception about the subject already tells us what the primary cause of the problem is – students’ lack of interest in the subject. The question we need to be asking now is why our students don’t have the interest in the subject.

Recall how you were taught Mathematics way back in the primary school and you’ll side with me that Mathematics hasn’t been simplified in our classrooms. Every opportunity most teachers have to stand before their students to teach Math, they make things complex for their students. I am a teacher, and I have noticed that most teachers, more especially those in the basic schools, are good with the Math content, but deficient when it comes to delivery. Such teachers go through all difficulties to convey a simple Math concept to the students.

Math will be liked by students if teachers ensure their handling of the subject is one that causes the children asking when next they’ll have a Math lesson. Teachers must begin to explore how to get their students’ interest in the subject aroused. When the best teaching and learning material is combined with the right teaching method, and the concepts well demystified by making them part of the students’ daily lives, students will begin to see Math friendly.

That aside, while we’ve one group having content mastery, but lacks the delivery skills, there is another group with no content proficiency in the first place. There is no way such teachers can help their students connect to the subject. There’re a good number of teachers that when it comes to Mathematics will confide in you that they have no idea how to go about a particular topic. It is for this reason that the School-based Instruction (SBI) was introduced for teachers to do peer teaching, but some of them will not seek for help even from a colleague let alone bringing it up for discussion at SBI meetings. They, therefore, either ignore the topic or go and teach the students the wrong thing.

What do we have to do? Our colleges of education (CoE) must review their training of teachers. Besides, we may have to assign teachers who have both the content and pedagogy prowess to handle only Math in our schools. A primary school can have three designated Math teachers with refined mastery in both content and delivery teaching the subject.

Notwithstanding, MoE and GES must begin to invest in re-training their employees (teachers) occasionally and also supply Math TLMs to the schools to make teaching of the subject interesting.

These could to some extent save us the embarrassing failure we see our students record in the BECE and the WASSCE.

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