- “There is no need to fear Mathematics,” is the compelling message the Mico University College wants to drive home to teachers of the subject as well as students.
- One of the avenues through which the message is being imparted is the annual Research Day, which this year focused on the transformational power of Mathematics.
- Over the past year, the Ministry has recruited and deployed 76 Mathematics specialists to approximately100 primary and secondary schools under the Government’s $300 million National Mathematics Programme.
“There is no need to fear Mathematics,” is the compelling message the Mico University College wants to drive home to teachers of the subject as well as students.
The institution is seeking to demystify Mathematics and present it in integrated ways, linking it to other subject areas and in a real life context.
One of the avenues through which the message is being imparted is the annual Research Day, which this year focused on the transformational power of Mathematics.
“Math is exciting. Mathematics is relevant and we can all do it,” the institution’s Director of Alumni and Development, Sharon Bogues-Wolfe, emphasises.
She was speaking to JIS News during the first session of the research day event, held at the school’s Marescaux Road location, in Kingston, on March 25.
Mrs. Bougues-Wolfe, who is also Chair of Research Day 2015, says that through the event, Mico is looking at Mathematics from all angles. “We believe that Mathematics education and Mathematics literacy can and should be the driver for economic development,” she says.
“So, we are looking at Mathematics in sports; we’re looking at it at the early childhood level; we’re looking at Mathematics in our culture – music and art; we’re looking at it (in the context of) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We are looking at a wide variety of things and we believe that this approach will certainly enhance understanding for Mathematics,” she explains.
Critically, Mrs. Bougues-Wolfe says that given the underachievement of students in this subject area, and how the subject is approached by teachers, the institution chose to highlight the issues, challenges, strategies and solutions to improve that situation.
“We believe that Mathematics is relevant and if we make it relevant to our students, from the early childhood level when they already have enquiring minds and having fun and want to learn, that is when they learn,” she says.
Mrs. Sharon Bogues-Wolfe tells JIS News that the aim is to ensure that the nation’s teachers have no fear of Mathematics, “so they can almost transfer that enthusiasm, that passion for learning to our students at all levels of the system.”
The institution’s push is in keeping with the Ministry of Education’s current drive to enhance the teaching skills of mathematics teachers as well as improve the performance of students in the subject.
Over the past year, the Ministry has recruited and deployed 76 Mathematics specialists to approximately100 primary and secondary schools under the Government’s $300 million National Mathematics Programme.
The engagement of the coaches represents one component of the Ministry’s response to the low performance of students in mathematics, particularly at the secondary level.
In addition to the deployment of the practitioners, significant work is being done with the country’s teacher training institutions as well as school principals and Boards of management who are being encouraged to pay closer attention to matters relating to the teaching and learning of mathematics.
A public education campaign, dubbed Math Counts, has also been developed to support the National Mathematics Programme and to help more Jamaicans develop a positive attitude towards the subject.
The Ministry is seeking to meet the revised goal of 85 per cent of students in the Grade four cohort achieving numeracy mastery by 2018.
It has also set a 2017 timeline when all Grade 11 high school students are expected to be sitting Mathematics in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination.
The event, which was held under the theme: ‘The Transforming Power of Mathematics for National Development’, featured paper presentations, panel discussions, faculty displays, poster competition, exhibitions and live demonstrations of special teaching methods.
Highlighting the demonstration aspect, Mrs. Bougues-Wolfe points out that these centred around the integration of mathematics with different subject areas, such as integration of math with music, math with language, and math in the methodology area and many other areas of integration.
Another key activity, she says, was a cooking demonstration by renowned chef, Brian Lumley, showing how measurement is important in preparing the perfect dish.
Another major highlight was the lunch hour concert led by the school’s Music Department that featured music and its relationship to Mathematics.
In addition, the opening session featured a seminar delivered by Professor David Burghes of the University of Plymouth in the United Kingston, on the importance of Mathematics for national development.
The seminar examined the reasons behind the increased importance of enhancing mathematical thinking and competency in an increasingly technological world and how this is achieved in educational systems around the world.
Partners in the staging of the day’s activities included the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), Jamaica National, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) and the Caribbean Aviation Training Centre.