Valentine, Chocolate, and Mathematics

February 14th each year is observed as a day for people to show love to each other. Others have declared it as a day to show love to chocolates and eat lots of them. Yet others have adopted it as the day to show love to mathematics. Can the three co-exist? Why not? You may decide to show love to someone by presenting the one with chocolates after calculating the cost of chocolates and deciding the different sizes and shapes that you present to your loved one.

But why use Valentine day to show love to mathematics? For over one year, MathNED, an NGO promoting the use of Mathematics for national education and development has been calling for the declaration of February 14th each year as National Mathematic Day to be observed as such by all schools in the country. I thank the Ministry of Education, Science, and Sports and the Ghana Education Service for declaring the day as such. The idea is to get students engaged in showcasing on that day the connections between real life and mathematical concepts that the students study.

Notice that mathematics is everyday activity and should not be limited to a day’s celebration. February 14th is only an awareness-creation day. A circular sent out by the new Director-General of Ghana Education Service to all schools in the country through the regional directors of education with some hands-on mathematical activities is only a start of the process to rekindle interest in mathematics. Students are to work out on those activities throughout the year while teachers add on their own activities. In fact, two periods of mathematics each week should be devoted to practical mathematics, just as practical physics or chemistry. So, as students build the models throughout the year, they exhibit these models on each 14th of February.

We need to make students see the relevance of the mathematics they study. We need to occupy the minds of our students with useful activities that impact on them positively. These days, there are many things competing for the time and mind of students. Pornography, occultism, cocaine usage, homosexuality, alcohol, valentine day celebrations, shit-bombing of classrooms, and the like, have all crept into the school system and are taking quality time away from students; time that they need to study and appreciate the beauty of school subjects and how these subjects contribute to the general knowledge needed for the development of dear Ghana.

Conscious efforts must be made to initiate programs that can be used to win back the time and minds of students. These programs must be interesting, intellectually challenging, stretching students to bring out creative solutions to problems, and must attract some extrinsic rewards. MathNED is making a small contribution in that direction by asking students to construct, as an example, a model showcasing the eclipse of the sun by the moon, as occurred recently, or a large model of the globe, using the cane, and be able to illustrate and show different time zones, different seasons, and the like.

I thank the Minister of Education, the Director-General of GES, and all those who are lending their support to this agenda of revamping mathematics education in Ghana. This is just the beginning. A lot of work needs to be done. For example, there is the need to organize workshops for mathematics teachers nationwide to help them become part of the solution to the mathematics phobia that students experience in the country.

The MathNED Mathematics Road Show, where MathNED personnel visit schools nationwide to whip up interest through talks and activities to students, must continue. Corporate Ghana should support these initiatives so that we shall have a different story to tell during Ghana@100 celebrations. Our proposals are with you. Thanks!

-Prof. S.E. Anku
Founder & Executive Director, MathNED

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