Again, Mathematics scares pupils, parents

The Head of the Nigeria National Office of the West African Examinations Council, Mr. Olu Adenipekun, recently announced that out of the 1,572,396 candidates who sat the 2018 West African Senior School Certificate in the country, 858,424 obtained credits and above in a minimum of five subjects, including English Language but without Mathematics.

This placed the population that passed Mathematics at 713,972.

While stakeholders bemoan the disappointing results, a Mathematics teacher of over 16 years, Mr. Adebayo Owolabi, has warned that the poor performances in the subject would persist unless teachers adopt a more positive attitude to teaching as a profession and a better methodology.

Investigation, however, showed that many pupils fail mathematics because they dread the subject. Some of them would rather blame the subject, which they consider to be “too difficult”, for their poor performances than blame their teachers.

Only a few pupils, like nine-year-old Maryann Okwudiri, enjoy attending Mathematics lessons and listening to their teachers teach the subject in class.

“I like maths, I don’t like English. I don’t know why, I just like it. It is easier, English is one kind”, young Okwudiri told our correspondent.

Also, explaining her daughter’s situation, Maryann’s mother, Esther, said, “Fortunately, Maryann is good in maths. She does all her homework herself and saves me the trouble of letting her know that she is smarter than me. Her weakness is English language and that is where I step in. The parts of speech and tenses are her major problem. I can’t afford to get her an extra lesson teacher. So I teach her myself. Her teachers don’t give her extra attention or anything in maths, she just understands it and shows a lot of interest.”

An SS2 pupil in a school in the Ijanikin area of Lagos, Chizoba, blamed himself for not excelling in Mathematics. He said, “I will not lie. My maths teachers have tried since I was in Jss1, but I don’t think my brain can carry it. My maths teacher is very funny. She cracks jokes while teaching, but I still feel very sleepy during her lessons. I felt the same way about balancing equations when we first started learning it in Jss3. Anything that makes me hungry, I will not understand it. And maths is like that. My daddy and lesson teacher have tried, but I just cannot understand the subject.”

Responding to this knotty problem of comprehension among the pupils, Owolabi said, “Generally, many pupils don’t like Mathematics, anywhere you go. This is because of the abstract nature of the subject. It is not that many of the pupils who are doing well in the subject really like it; it is because they can’t do without it. On the average, if you ask pupils to pick the subjects like, I believe 99 per cent will not pick maths.

“One of the reasons for failure is not because teachers are not using the right method, but that today’s pupils are restless. They are easily distracted. They don’t have time to sit down to study. Mathematics is a subject to be practised every day and every time. if you fail to practise it and refresh your memory, you will find that those things you learn will be forgotten the next day. This applies to teachers too.”

Owolabi also blamed parents for the persistent poor performances in Mathematics. He said, “Parents constitute another major problem to the learning of mathematics. I say this because they leave the children to be exposed to games and gadgets or television for as much as five hours when they are away from home. There should be a timetable for every child at home, for rest and play. And they should supervise the timetable themselves. Teachers cannot do it alone. The teacher’s role ends in the school. Even if the parent does not understand the subject, nothing stops them from supervising the children.”

To solve the age-long problem, he suggested that teachers should adopt a student-centred method for teaching mathematics in secondary schools.

He said, “This involves teaching pupils what they don’t like or understand with something they like. It could involve using pictures, videos or ICT to teach them in an attractive way, from jss1 to SS3. It will help them to see that Mathematics is real, not just abstract. This is necessary because some of our pupils ask us what the relevance of maths is to those who want to become fashion designers or house wives. It is the duty of the teacher to let them see how it applies to everything and every field in life. If they like to browse the Internet, use the same Internet to teach them and they will learn. That is the only way teachers of maths will succeed in their work.”

Among other tips expert advise learners to eliminate distraction and study in group to improve in the subject.

According to an online platform, Skooli, it is also wise to relate problems to real life situations, try new times of the day to study and speak with one’s maths teacher in a one-0n- one setting.

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