From Whence Cometh Help For Mathematics?

Since 2003 MathNED started advocating for the use of mathematics for national education and development. Personnel from MathNED toured some secondary schools and training colleges in the country to motivate students to rekindle their interest in mathematics. There were activity-based demonstration lessons in mathematics and talks on everybody can do mathematics. However, these visits had to be postponed because no help came from the Ghana Education Service or the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports although help was sought from these sources. Corporate Ghana’s response was not any better.

However, what I hear everyday is the trauma students experience while they study mathematics. Why is mathematics compulsory? Is it not because of its importance in all spheres of life? Why are we paying lip service to the study of mathematics and its application to our national development? Are we not aware that mathematics ensures the efficiency of all things that we do? Countries that are aware of this and use mathematics to shape their national development are called developed. Can’t we do likewise in Ghana?

In spite of the seemingly hostile atmosphere that lack of funding provides, MathNED has initiated the formation of Mathematics Community of Ghana (MACOG) which is a student-led association to organize students all over the country and motivate them to enjoy the study of mathematics and see its relevance to everyday life activities. MACOG organized their first activity by camping students from all over the country at the Akuafo Hall of the University of Ghana from 17th to 20th July 2008. Many prominent mathematicians addressed the students and took them through several activities. No help came to the students although they cried for help.

Ghana Mathematics Society (GMS) has also been formed to revamp mathematics education in Ghana. It was launched on the 27th of September 2007 at GNAT Hall by the Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Sports, Mrs. Angelina Baiden-Amissah. Membership is open to all those who believe in the application of the principles and methods of mathematics to develop Ghana. Mathematics lecturers in the universities, polytechnics, teacher training colleges, and all those who use significant mathematics in their careers are particularly invited to become members. Pre-tertiary mathematics teachers are encouraged to become members. Its primary purpose is to unite all teachers of mathematics (at all levels) in the country to adopt a holistic approach to revamping mathematics education in Ghana. To organize its first national congress in April 2008, it cried for help but did not get any.

Efforts were also made to send students to participate in the annual Pan African Mathematics Olympiad (PAMO) organized by the African Mathematics Union (AMU). Students who went for the first time last year had to food all the bills by themselves. This year, no student is representing Ghana because no help has come to the many who expressed interest to participate in PAMO. Ghana’s participation in Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003 and 2007 had been abysmal because no proper help was provided. For how long will this situation of not providing help for mathematics continue?

I hope the authorities are aware of the seemingly poor state of mathematics education in the country and the trauma experienced by many students who study mathematics. The principles and methods of mathematics are either not understood by many or they are not applied consciously (meaningfully) to our national developmental efforts. It is time to do something eclectic and on a larger scale to involve many more students and teachers. I am aware of the STME program under JICA but that is limited in scope and coverage. We need a broader-based national program that will impact positively on a larger population of Ghanaian students who must see the use of mathematics in their daily lives as routine and commonplace. We invite the GES, MOESS and corporate Ghana to come to the rescue of mathematics education in Ghana.

-Prof. S.E. Anku
President, Ghana Mathematics Society

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