Revamping Mathematics
education in Ghana: 
From my
experience having taught mathematics and mathematics
education in several countries that include Ghana,
Nigeria, Canada, and Singapore, I have come to belief
that the proper and common place use of the principles
and methods of mathematics can propel Ghana into a
developed country status. This is possible if the study
of mathematics is made less stressful and mathematics
itself becomes meaningful and relevant to those who
study it. The efficiency of all engineering, science and
technological advancements we see around us are due to
the proper application of mathematics and all developed
countries have recognized this fact and used it (and
continue to use it) to their advantage. 

Poor
State of Mathematics 
The need to
do something about the very poor state of mathematics in
the country becomes compelling when you become aware
that during Trends In Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS
2003), an international study conducted by the
International Association for the Evaluation of
Educational Achievement (IEA) of the USA, out of the 45
countries that participated, Ghana occupied the 44th
position when all countries were ranked from top to
bottom. Poor results in mathematics from other sources
like the Basic Schools Certificate Examination (BECE)
and the Senior Secondary Schools Certificate Examination
(SSSCE) all over the country are well known. These poor
results become a source of pain to many well meaning
Ghanaians. Failure in mathematics has become a stumbling
block to advancement for many Ghanaians.
Can’t anything be done about the
situation? 

Something can be done! 
For example,
it is very important that teachers of mathematics are
sensitized and equipped to provide opportunities for
their students to enjoy the study of mathematics and be
good at it. Also students, and for that matter
Ghanaians, must understand mathematics to the extent
that they see how mathematics ensures efficiency in all
human endeavors, especially how it applies to their
professions. 

MathNED 
Consequently, MathNED**, an advocacy nongovernmental organization
that promotes the use of mathematics for national education and
development is putting together a national strategy to rekindle
interest in mathematics for both mathematics teachers and students.
MathNED therefore seeks to provide professional development for
mathematics teachers (which would include conducting classroom
research and applying the results to improve teaching), counseling
in career choices for students, introducing teachers and students to
interactive software for enhancing the teaching and learning of
mathematics through the computer. Also to be promoted are enrichment
programs for the mathematics classroom, seminars, workshops, and
talks on mathematics, and assessment issues in mathematics. 

Breaking Mental Barriers 
Some of the issues to be discussed involve breaking mental barriers,
where mental barriers mean mindsets that prevent people from making
progress. For example, it is a mental barrier to think and accept
that females cannot do mathematics. Some other mental barriers
include thinking and accepting that mathematics is difficult, it‘s
study cannot be enjoyed and be fun, and that introducing activities
into the mathematics classroom will cause the school syllabus not to
be finished. Rather, I will like to show that mathematics can be fun
and everybody can do mathematics. Students need to be connecting
mathematics to real life, applying mathematics in a variety of
situations, developing critical minds that they can use to analyze
complex situations, being able to synthesize creatively, and be able
to evaluate the worth of creative solutions to problems. Remember
that it was through the use of their knowledge of discrete
mathematics that different groups of my students of my former
University (Ashesi) developed a working prototype of a traffic
light, a software for making school timetable (the university
currently uses the software for its own timetable), and another
software for generating school reports. 

Structured Discovery Learning (SDL) 
In addition,
teachers can be taught how to use activitybased learning
through what I call structured discovery learning that
guarantees students’ understanding of mathematics and the
teachers completion of the syllabus. In fact, there are so
many repetitions in the syllabus that, by SDL approach, a
JSS 1 student will need only two hours per day, five days a
week to complete the whole of the JSS mathematics syllabus
in less than six months and pass an examination in it.


International Exposure 
Furthermore, there is the need to provide international exposure to our teachers
through attendance and presentation of papers at conferences and their
involvement in organizing international conferences in mathematics here in
Ghana. Similarly, our students must participate frequently in international
mathematics activities, such as the Pan African Mathematics Olympia (PAMO) and
the International Mathematics Olympia (IMO), which are international
competitions in mathematics that several African countries participate in . The
sad news is that Ghana does not participate in them. However, MathNED intends
to promote all of these! 

Mathematics
Clubs 
In furtherance of this
national strategy, I have created a website (www.mathned.org)
from where I want to connect all mathematics teachers to a forum
where we can discuss mathematical issues of national concern. Also,
mathematics teachers all over the country are to help students
organize mathematics clubs in their respective schools. Members of
these clubs are to create websites and have all of them linked to
the MathNED website. Some of the schools are to be linked with
counterpart schools in the USA. Furthermore, 14th February every
year can be declared a day to Valentine with Mathematics, that is a
day that all students in Ghana, through their clubs will mount
exhibits to show love to mathematics. For 2007 in particular, 14th
February exhibits should showcase 50 years of mathematics education
in Ghana, as part of our golden anniversary celebrations. Some of
these issues were discussed at the just ended annual conference of
the MAG which took place in Cape Coast from 28th August to 2nd
September 2006. Currently, I am in the process of giving free email
accounts to members of MAG for us to begin running the forum. Send
me mail to get connected! 

Mathematics
Road Show 
As a first step to
realizing this ambitious program, I am launching a road show
to visit as many senior secondary schools nationwide as
possible. Teacher training colleges, polytechnics, and the
universities can all benefit from the program. Three talks are
planned for delivery in each school or a cluster of schools.
The topics are:

Pursuing
Excellence in Education

Everybody Can Do
Mathematics

Career Choice
Counseling


However, I need
several types of support to implement this program successfully,
especially by making it free for schools. I am requesting the
media houses to kindly become our media sponsors to help spread
information on this national program to rekindle interest in
mathematics education in Ghana. Whatever support you want to
give in kind or cash will be appreciated and can be sent to MathNED through the Editor of the daily Graphic. 
Dr. Sitsofe Anku 

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