President of the Mathematical Association of Nigeria (MAN) Dr. Sunday Adediran, in this interview, says like other experimental subjects, labs would contribute to the learning of math concepts and skills. He also spoke on the challenges facing math and the way forward.
Authorities blame teachers’ poor teaching styles while teachers in turn fault students’ study habits for math exam failures. What problems cause students to fail math?
Poor foundation and lack of mathematics laboratory in school, lack of qualified mathematics teachers, lack of good motivation and incentives for mathematics teachers, mathematics phobia, parental involvement and lack of working materials such as textbooks, workbooks, mathematics equipment/tools. The syllabus is not student-centred.
What do we need to do differently to change the attitude of students towards learning mathematics?
The conceptual understanding of mathematical laboratory will better enable students to handle logical and complex information throughout their lives. Mathematical laboratory lessons would obviously stir up the interest of the learners and remove the phobia for the subject. This, in turn, will lead to good performance in mathematics and other related subjects.
There seems to be mass failure in math year on year in in school certificate exams. Who do we blame in the school system?
The government, school, the teacher, parents and the society at large are to be held responsible.
As MAN president, what are you doing to correct some of the challenges of mathematics teaching and learning?
Since mathematics laboratory is the means to good foundation for the teaching and learning of mathematics that will give us the desired result, we are expecting they should adequately be provided in schools. It is the way to gain correct understanding of mathematical concepts contrary to the abstract nature it is mostly presented.
It is therefore, my utmost desire that every school, including primary and secondary schools, as well as higher institutions of learning get a laboratory where the teaching and the learning will be made real to every live situation.
Mathematics teachers are said to be contributing to failure in the subject, how do we change that?
Under mathematical laboratory lessons, the role of the teacher is to be reduced to a facilitator. There is a strategy for teaching mathematics in a laboratory atmosphere that would transform the position of the teacher from being active speaker to the facilitator. Conceptualizing mathematical ideas stimulates the growth of analytical thought, which is critical for succeeding in the modern world
Do we have enough mathematics teachers in schools?
There are no enough teachers in most of our schools.
What are your recommendations to the government, schools, individuals and society at large?
We recommended to the government that, both federal and state, should as a matter of urgency establish laboratories in all primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The Joint Consultative Committee on Education (JCCE) should include establishment of laboratory and usage of same in the schools.
The state ministries of education in conjunction with the head of schools should create space in the school time table for mathematics practicals as the case with other science subjects while teachers of mathematics should endeavour to go the extra mile in carrying out the practical even if it means using improvised materials.