By Emmanuel Edukugho
Seventy-four best students in both Junior and Senior categories from each state of the federation and Federal Capital Territory sat for the second and final stage examination of the Cowbell National Secondary Schools Mathematics Competition (NASSMAC) held last Saturday April 17, 2010 at the Lagos Airport Hotel.
They were accompanied to the venue of the examination (Lagos) by their Mathematics teachers and all expenses paid by Promasidor Nigeria Limited, makers of Cowbell Milk.
The first stage was held on Saturday February 13, 2010 in 130 centres in the 36 states and the Federal Capital. As from March 22, 2010, students, teachers and head teachers checked their examination results on the companyâ€™s website.
Those students with the highest mark in both Junior and Senior categories from each state were invited and sponsored to Lagos for the second and final stage examination which took place last Saturday from where the national winners are going to emerge.
The final prize-giving award ceremony is scheduled to hold on Thursday May 13, 2010 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
At the occasion, the best ten students from each category at the second stage examination are to be honoured as Cowbell Milkâ€™s Mathematicians in which all stakeholders including the Minister of Education would be attending.
After the examination in Lagos, some of the students interviewed expressed optimism that they will b e successful.
Gidado Yusuf, a student from Government Senior Secondary School, Bindawa, Katsina State, (SS2) said the examination was somehow easy.
â€œItâ€™s simple and alright for me as I was able to answer the questions. I can pass by the grace of God.â€
Asked whether he had any difficulty, Gidado replied: â€œSo many of the questions were difficult, especially essay. The objective was simple.â€
On what he wants to become in future: â€œI want to be a teacher and also to study journalism. I like to be reporting stories and events happening, particularly I like to work in newspaper.â€
Another SS2 student who wrote the examination, Musa Ahanda Medugu, from Maiduguri International School, Maiduguri, said the final state examination was quite simple compared with that at the state level.
â€œWell, the examination was quite simple compared with the one we did at the state level.â€ When asked why is it so, he replied: â€œBecause looking at the questions, there was limited time at the state level, but here at this national final stage, there is enough time.
We can calculate, recheck our answers. By the grace of God, I will make it, although there were many difficult areas. For instance, there was problem with understanding the English with which the Maths questions were written.
Questions were so twisted that it was difficult to understand. I am not good in English, but trying to be better in it.â€
On whether this will affect his performance, Musa responded this way: â€œThis will affect me, hence Iâ€™m hoping on God. I will be answering a question, then suddenly jump to another, before I come back again.â€
What about the future?
â€œI want to go for Medicine, to be a medical doctor. Iâ€™m looking at the respect given to doctors and the saving of lives also. Itâ€™s a good thing,â€ he concluded.
Some of the teachers also spoke with Vanguard Education Weekly.
Mallam Atiku Salisu, who teaches Mathematics at Community Science Secondary School, Kauranamoda, Zamfara State came with an SS2 student, 18-year-old Abdulsalam Hamza Usman for the examination at senior category.
â€œI have full confidence in him: He is good in mathematics, and in other subjects, the boy is trying. Right from junior secondary school, Iâ€™ve known him, often taking first and second. I really have confidence in him. I know him very well because we come from the same town.â€
How long have you been teaching mathematics?
â€œIâ€™ve been teaching Mathematics for four years now, but it is my second year with this school. Since coming to Lagos, the environment is good. Conducive, attractive, no problem with this place. The organisers are excellent. They are dong their best to keep us happy and give us everything we need. If they continue like this, Nigerian students will have something good in the future.â€
On the teaching of Mathematics: â€œTeachers themselves should take responsibility for effective teaching of Mathematics. If a teacher is willing to teach, he will know how to do it. If there is difficulty, then the teacher will know how to handle the students and to properly plan the teaching of the subject. There is no way a student will fail, if the teacher present the subject effectively.
Once a student can catch up, he will love Mathematics more. There are several methods to solve a problem. If a student does not understand with a method, use another, and he will catch up.â€
On students themselves: â€œStudents also have problem. While the teacher is teaching, they wonâ€™t ask relevant questions. They will pretend they know, but when tested, they will fail. They should pay more attention. All fingers are not equal.
If students and teachers settle down, there wonâ€™t be problem. I believe that if I teach a student, such a student must understand. The equation
Do parents have role to play?
â€œParents have their own fault. If a dog is given a name, thatâ€™s what it will answer till death. Parents have their own role â€“ monitoring the students, making sure they attend classes, discuss with the children, ask questions at home, to know their difficulties.
Parents can arrange extra-mural studies for their children, making use of youth coppers and paying them. Motivation of teachers essential,â€ Salisu advised.
Bello Adamu is a teacher at Government Science Secondary School, Gusau, Zamfara, came with a junior student named Ahmed Mohammed. He is 13 years old in JSS3.
â€œIâ€™ve been handling him for three years. I really know him. He is good. The reason is that right from JSS1, no matter the question on Maths, he is always the first to answer the question. Even at a time, I put him in the Mathematics Club with his seniors and competed well with SS3 students. Examination is not the true test of knowledge, but yet I totally hope he will make it.â€
Bello added: â€œEven in other subjects, like Integrated Science, the teacher said he is better. In English, the master put him in the Editorial team, and also in the debating society â€“ all because of his talent. He is an all rounder. They way Iâ€™m proud of h im so too other teachers re proud of him.â€
On his experience as a Maths teachers: â€œAs a teacher of Mathematics, the way to make it is through practical, not theory or story telling. Let the students do something themselves. We have a Mathematics laboratory in the school.
There are full plain sheets, a rectangular card board paper, practical kits in different shapes, spring balance, globe (iron and plastic) imaginary lines, angles, etc, for practicals which the students can see and use.â€
How can Mathematics be made attractive for students?
â€œBy making them realise that fully, all parts of their life is Mathematics. No way they can escape it. Like if I want to go to somewhere in one hour, at what rate will I move. Itâ€™s calculation. Even the housewife calculates what quantity of salt is required in a soup, what quantity of water to cook a pot of rice and on on. Also itâ€™s all about accurate measurement.â€
On what government t can do to stimulate learning of mathematics.
â€œGovernment should embark on massive public enlightenment to remove the stigma of madness and mathematicicians. That people who teach and learn the subject are not mad.
Government should provide all necessary materials to enhance teaching and learning of Mathematics. Also provide laboratories, kits, etc. Parents should allow their children to have resting minds at home so as to think about what they learnt in school.â€
As regards the future.
â€œThe way Cowbell is dong things, it will help students. The young teachers of Mathematics will do it in the modern way â€“ just moulding the children and taking care of them like eggs, not to be flogging them. If you know the level of the kind of interest in Mathematics in universities, definitely students are now liking it.