ARUKAINO UMUKORO writes about making children develop keen interest in learning Mathematics
Seven-year-old Anjola Ogundele was top of her class in subjects like English and Integrated Science, among others, but she had poor grades in Mathematics since her primary one days. Thus, she dreaded the word, ‘maths.’ From primary three, she began to skip classes by giving excuses to her teacher whenever it was the period for the subject.
Luckily for her, her class was introduced to a new maths teacher in the second term who noticed the girl’s fear of the subject.
“The first thing I did was let her know that Maths was like any other subject, so she should not be afraid of it,” her teacher, Mr. Bode Joseph, said.
That marked the start of improvement for Anjola. The teacher noted that he started giving her extra lessons after school and homework to do on her own. Anjola not only developed interest in maths, she conquered her fears about it and was more punctual in class.
“Step by step, she gained confidence and became better and started asking for more homework. She was so excited and told her parents about her improvements in maths. They were also happy for her and came to school to tell me about her new found love for maths,” the teacher said.
At the end of the second term, Anjola’s grades improved. She went from bottom of the class of 30 to among the top eight in maths scores.
When it comes to the study and learning of mathematics, fear is not necessarily the beginning of wisdom, noted an education consultant, Mr. Olusegun Omisore.
Parents and teachers need to stop making the pupils dread maths by frequently telling them the difficult nature of solving maths, he further said.
He added, “It is a psychological thing, because most kids are told by their parents, teachers or peers that maths is a difficult subject. So, they already have that fear, which then affects their focus while studying or learning the subject.’’
Omisore advised that children should be made to see maths like any other subject, noting that only then would they learn easily.
He said, “Maths shouldn’t be made a big deal that would create fear in the hearts of children. Instead, confidence should be instilled in them. We need to demystify maths, history is like maths, and it is an everyday thing. For example, when one goes to the market to buy things and draws out a budget and does calculations, it is everyday maths. Calculating how much share of biscuits a sibling would get compared to another is everyday maths, and so on.
“If we demystify maths right from primary school and let them see it is an everyday subject, it would be easier for them to handle it. Children should also be encouraged to study maths for the fun of it and not because they are simply being prepared to pass an examination.”
In the same vein, a maths teacher, Abiodun Majekodunmi, said as a result of the general notion of maths being a difficult subject, children already have a negative, defeatist mindset about it, which affects their concentration and learning in class.
He further said helping children to develop a keen interest in maths from an early age would help to boost their interest in the subject.
Having taught Maths for the last 18 years, Majekodunmi should know. He said most kids are put off enjoying maths as a subject because of the dread they develop from constantly being fed about the difficulty of maths as a subject.
He said, “Most children don’t like maths because it is an abstract subject, unlike other subjects like health science where you can see the examples outside. Secondly, the majority of our pupils are not ready to research, they want teachers to tell them everything. They are not ready to do it and solve questions on their own. Number three, not all teachers can pass the knowledge of maths to many of the pupils to understand. As a result, pupils run away from maths because it seems hard to understand.’’
Majekodunmi also blamed the dearth of specialised maths teachers in primary and secondary schools for children’s poor performance or lack of interest in the subject.
“Class teachers who do not have special training in maths are simply saddled with teaching foundation basic maths,’’ he stated.
Majekodunmi advised that the right orientation about maths should be created from the outset.
He further advised maths teachers to make the teaching of the subject fun by engaging the pupils in simple practical lessons and fun games that explain the subject better.
According to him, the importance of learning maths as a subject should be encouraged by school authorities and government at every level by creating more awareness through special programmes/competitions to reward maths learning/performance.
Similarly, a maths teacher, Tola Aweda, said parents should avoid burdening their children with their challenges as it would affect their concentration in school and their performance in critical subjects like maths.
She also advised that parents and teachers alike should take advantage of everyday technology and apps to make children enjoy the learning of maths.
Another way to help children like maths is a teacher’s enthusiasm for the subject, she said.
Aweda said, “Motivation can be transferred through a teacher’s enthusiasm when teaching children maths, because when they see that their teacher values maths as a subject, the pupils themselves would realise its importance and be motivated to learn and improve.”
The teacher further said the quality of local maths textbook needs to be improved.
“The quality and standard of maths textbooks being produced nowadays have dropped significantly. These contribute to the problems children are having in maths because the authors do not do enough research and thus make maths look more difficult than it is. In such cases, the teachers then have more work to do,” she said.
Beyond the classroom, experts advised that parents should also play active roles in helping their children to like maths as a subject.
Attitude is everything when it comes to learning maths, noted a US maths teacher, Amrita Minocha, in her article on a parenting blog.
Minocha urged parents to encourage their children even when they fail in maths.
She said, “Encourage every move. Applaud first and then count the mistakes. Children should know that they need to work hard—just like they do for football, painting, cycling, and other fun stuff. You never know math might soon find itself in this category of most loved things.’’AD: WAEC SUCCESS GUARANTEED! Gain access to FREE PAST QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS of WASSCE [CLICK HERE]
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