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12.02.2015 Opinion

Why Do So Many People Not Enjoy Mathematics?

By Patience Aba Sakyi
Why Do So Many People Not Enjoy Mathematics?
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I have heard university students express their opinion of Mathematics as: “too geeky”, “not at all associated to life”. I am just curious what the version of those in high school and basic school will be. I am pretty much concerned what led to such a near global distaste for something which some of us opine should be appreciated. Is it strange that if 2y=10 then y=5? Or is it too 'geeky' that if the square root of a number is 9, then that number is 81? Perhaps that is not the part that scares most people. But seriously, why do so many people not enjoy Mathematics?

I remember how back in fifth grade most of us hated Monday mornings. It was because that was the period our Math teacher, always with his big cane in hand, would move from student to student for a mental drill. And for those colleagues of mine who could not learn by rote, they always encountered our greatest enemy – the cane. I remember how I did the sign of the cross each time I was able to give a correct answer.

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At least I was free for that week. Oh how we always prayed that this Math teacher would not come to school! If I have ever heard or seen wonders, it was during the mental drill class. That was when you would hear a pupil respond “34!” to the teacher's question: “3 times 4!” Funny as it may sound, that singular experience of being punished for not being good at cramming was slowly but progressively creating an ineradicable impression in our little minds – that Math is hard.

At least that was what most of us murmured each time we finished that class; a murmur was all we could afford at the time, you know. If that impression about Mathematics was a good one, then my article would end here. But it wasn't. In fact, it is that impression that has matured into “Math is so not related to real life in any way!” and then finally to “I am not the Math type.” Truth is we cannot run away from Mathematics. It is one of the things we meet every day in its assorted forms. So it should have been one thing that almost everyone loves, but unfortunately many people (students especially) endure their way through it.

Looking at examination results in Core Mathematics in which of the 402, 794 candidates who sat for the exam nationwide only 36.8% obtained grades A1 to C6 (source: vedicmathghana.wordpress.com), we see that the Math canker really deserves attention. We all need to help solve this problem from the roots. The basic school teacher will help pupils to understand Mathematics for what it really is – an everyday experience which is beautiful and enjoyable and not a classroom subject which is passed by memorization.

The student studying Mathematics will also try to understand how each step works and not just learn by rote. Parents will help their children recognize the many instances in life when their children use Mathematics unconsciously but successfully; this will help the younger ones appreciate Mathematics as a day to day experience which they can do without being taught how.

I see a day when these three categories of people will perform their part of the solution like this. And on that same day I see the number of people re-sitting Mathematics decrease monumentally.

The writer, team leader of Math Mentorz (mathmentorz.blogspot.com), is a third year Bsc Mathematics Student of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science& Technology. Writer's email: [email protected]

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