19 September 2013

Tanzania: Creating Interest in Mathematics

MANY people think mathematics is a difficult subject to study. Some of them fear it and a number of them hate it. However, there are a few who like it and even create fun in it.

The good thing is that all of them accept that it is a very useful subject because of its utilitarian nature especially in science and technology. A lot of people talk about mathematics but very few do mathematics.

You will hear members of the public complaining about poor mathematics performance and even blame teachers and the ministry responsible for education for not taking appropriate measures to solve the problem.

Mathematics taught in the classroom should set the pace in the right direction if we want to achieve better results in terms of performance and application in related fields. Here, we are more concerned with the ways in which our pupils learn the organization of the teaching and the teaching aids available to teachers.

One of the first essentials is that everyone concerned (teachers and pupils) should so enjoy their work that mathematics lessons become the centre of lively interest and curiosity in the subject.

They also need to extend it beyond the classroom so that pupils get the opportunity to observe and appreciate the beauty of mathematics in nature and patterns they encounter in their daily life. This can only happen when they are able to work with confidence, feeling secure in their ability to understand the ideas and methods used.

It is important for the teacher to guard against demanding too much too soon. The teacher should also remember that in learning mathematics, the pupils are at first wholly absorbed in the new ideas and in the discoveries they make and have little thought to spare for the methods employed.

Many teachers jump into deduction too early and some pupils fail to keep up the pace and lose concentration. At this stage deduction should be used only where it is easily understood and likely to stimulate the pupil. Acceptability should determine the choice of presentation rather than the consistency of the development.

If a pupil is to like a subject at school it must hold or create interest. The interest mentioned here is not superficial or ephemeral, but one which is strong enough to call forth considerable perseverance from the pupils and to the determination to master tasks which are not immediately seen to be rewarding. In mathematics pupils interest is sustained if the subject matter is not too easy or too difficult.

The work they do with respect to the subject should be relevant to their present life. In order to create interest in mathematics, the pupils must be aware that they are making progress. They must experience success which brings added confidence and hence leads to greater effectiveness.

In a pre-pi day quiz conducted at the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) in 2008 sponsored by Tanzania Standard Newspapers, Kassim Samji of Azania Secondary School who emerged 1st winner said after receiving his prize, "Me, Kassim Samji as I am student, I am better in mathematics than in other subjects because of the efforts of my teacher and my other students.

My mathematics teacher Mrs Mabano, gives me the techniques of how to solve and tackle mathematics problems. My maths teacher provides me with some past mathematics papers and guides me in solving them.

On the other hand, my fellow students help me to perform well in my mathematics exams because whenever I need a help, they help me to solve the problem by exchanging our ideas and opinions.

So from the above reasons I can say that without mathematics teacher and my fellow students, I could not perform well in mathematics because they are beneficial to me.

In addition to that, my IQ helps in promoting my good performance. " It helps to learn about and make good use of the interest of our pupils and to encourage them to ask questions by letting them see that their questions are always taken seriously.

The question that begins "what happens if... " should be used as often as possible to promote thinking and should never be ignored. Let them realize that besides the utilitarian and social values, mathematics can give some of them early experience of intellectual pleasure.

Mathematics can also give the pupils the experience of taking something they are interested in, letting their minds play on it and discovering new and unexpected interest. If this lovely attitude to mathematics is to be achieved, the teacher must have a genuine interest in what he/she is teaching.

Flexibility, both in the choice of topic and in the method of presentations is essential. Rigid class teaching, with the teacher giving out all the necessary facts and methods and the class silently accepting their role of learning and practising without question is out-dated.

Today, we have a shift of paradigm where pupils' interest and learning experience are emphasized. Mathematics teachers and their supporters have an association called Mathematics Association of Tanzania (MAT/CHAHITA) which brings them together to share experiences regarding their interest in mathematics.

Two major activities which the association conducts to create interest among students are Students' Mathematics Research Competition and Mathematics Contest. Emerging winners are awarded prizes. The association holds its general meeting and seminar annually, usually in September.

In 2013 the activity will take place at Teofilo Kisanji University (TEKU) in Mbeya from 16th to 21st September. The opening ceremony is expected to be done by the Minister for Transport, Dr Harisson Mwakyembe, (MP). It will be closed by the Mbeya Regional Administrative Secretary.

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