By Ebele Orakpo
“It has become almost a cliché to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics.” — Richard Dawkins , English Professor of Evolutionary Biology. Over the years, it has been observed that many students hate mathematics out of fear and if Nigeria must develop technologically, there is need to conquer this fear and the best place to do that is at the basic education level.
Thus, disturbed by the dismal performance of students in mathematics regarded as one of the deepest and most powerful expressions of pure human reason, and the most fundamental resource for description and analysis of the experiential world, Mr. Ajibola Olatoye, a polymer engineer and Managing Director of Ibadan-based AugustMoon Plastics Limited, decided to help pupils at the foundation level fall in love with mathematics by presenting it in a simple and fun way. He spoke with Vanguard Learning recently. Excerpts:
Mr. Ajibola Olatoye on identifying some of the problems of teaching/learning of mathematics at the foundation level, decided to come up with a solution – the AugustMoon Edumodel series.
“It is an open fact that our students are not doing well in Mathematics in both WAEC and NECO Senior School Certificate Examinations. This situation is progressively getting out of control. In the 2009 Nov/Dec WASSC examination, only 31 per cent got credits in Mathematics. The corresponding NECO SSC examinations result was equally unsatisfactory. These alarmingly poor performances in Mathematics can be traced to students’ lack of interest in the subject for many reasons,” said Olatoye.
Some of the reasons, he noted, are; “unfriendly teachers’ approach, poorly trained teachers, influx of untrained teachers into the profession; inadequate learning environment, inadequate learning materials, lack of adequate exposure of pupils to everyday applications of mathematics; poor teaching methods, the most important and prevalent is the lack of good foundation for both the teaching and learning of mathematics at the basic levels,” he said.
Olatoye believes that once a child fails to get a good foundation in mathematics, he cannot go far in the subject and this has dire consequences which include “insufficient enrolment of undergraduates for technical studies like engineering requiring at least a credit in mathematics and the inability of universities to achieve the admission policy of 60:40 for sciences and arts as a way to train sufficient professionals to drive our technological dreams.”
Olatoye says the “AugustMoon Edumodel series is a practical approach to teaching children at their early lives, giving them ample room to express themselves. This is well explained in our book, Child Empowerment Through Practical Scientific Education (CETPSE), a do-it-yourself programme. We hope this will turn our children into practical accomplishers and less consumers of other people’s innovations. It is designed to turn around 180 degrees pupils’ dislike for mathematics to passion for the subject, right from pre-basic to the basic levels of our education system.”
It is said that ‘what you hear, you forget; what you see, you remember; what you do, you understand,’ so he adopted the participatory method of teaching and learning. He explains:
The plastic models:
This box contains 45 pieces of plastic mathematical models of figures and symbols in different colours. It enables the child in the nursery and early primary classes to identify figures and symbols; apply them to work out basic maths equations and identify various colours.
Double-sided Learning Board (DSLB)
The era of the teacher talking to the black board, at times far away from his pupils without knowing how many of them he is carrying along, is over.
The DSLB turns the pupils into the major actors in teaching/learning mathematics, practically and theoretically. The teacher can now be likened to the referee in a football match. He calls the shots and allows the pupils to come out, one at a time, to resolve a mathematical problem practically and theoretically.
While a pupil is busy sorting himself out on the DSLB, the rest, on their seats, are equally resolving the same problem in their minds, thus ensuring that everybody is indirectly involved in solving the same maths problem.
“If the pupil gets the answer wrong, any other pupil can be called to work it out. This ensures that everybody is involved all the time in resolving these maths problems at this foundation level.
“The pupils themselves demonstrate eagerness to correct anyone of them who provides a wrong answer, either by raising their hands or impatiently rushing to the DSLB, out of the burning desire to provide the correct answer. The sleepy appearing class at the start ends up bubbling with satisfactory expressions on the face of everybody.
Individual Pupil Learning Mini-Board Arrangement
“This is a step higher than the DSLB approach. Here, it is arranged for each pupil to have a mini-board with mathematical models, in front of him or her as well as sharpened pencil or a biro so that they can all simultaneously work out from the beginning to the end, answers to oral mathematics assignments fired at them by the teacher.
This step equally represents the most critical stage of self decision-making (auto-decision) for the pupil to build up total confidence in his ability to master the learning of mathematics; thus jettisoning completely any possibility of fear for the subject.
It also represents a new beginning for mass production of mathematically inclined young minds; a process which the teacher must handle carefully with lots of patience, understanding and desire to relate with his pupils on one-on-one basis as the learning progresses, knowing full well that his objective is to encourage total commitment to the subject by all his pupils.
This practical approach to learning mathematics may be used as the teaching/learning methods for primary one up to primary two,” he said.