How Mathematics Aids National Devt - Prof Salman

 By Steve Oni, Ilorin

Mathematics has been described as an indispensable tool for human survival irrespective of culture, sex, race, discipline and religious affiliations. Hence why human beings apply its knowledge to carry out daily activities, particularly in record keeping, commerce, measurement and music. 

This was the submission of Professor Medinat Folorunso Salman of the Department of Science Education while delivering the 168th Inaugural Lecture of the University of Ilorin on Thursday, titled "Language and Problem Solving: The Mathematics Education Link".

She said: "The scientists use Mathematics to design, experiment and analyse data. Mathematical formulas are used to express precise findings and make predictions based on findings. It helps industries to design, develop and test manufacturing processes and products. It is necessary in designing bridges, building dams, highways, and architectural and engineering projects. It is also an essential requirement for national development. "

Despite its value and importance, the Inaugural Lecturer has decried the low performance of students in Mathematics as a school subject as seen from the perennial failure in public examinations such as, the Senior School Certificate Examinations conducted by the WAEC and NECO.

Salman attributed students' failure in Mathematics to a number of factors to include lack of frequent practice, inadequate grasp of its technical language, poor mathematical background of the students, influence of parents on child's career choice, incompetent handling of difficult Mathematics topics by teachers, poor pedagogical approach or strategies, non-involvement of learners in practical classroom activities and failure on the part of the teachers to relate Mathematics to real life activities. 

She said: "The implication of this finding is that the teaching of the subject is not being handled by qualified teachers. Hence, students dislike the subject and this leads to poor performance at this level and other higher levels of education since a poor foundation had been laid at the primary level. In addition, the dislike for certain topics by teachers would undoubtedly hinder the meaningful learning of such topics that appear in the Mathematics curricular of secondary schools. 

"Also, the implication of this finding is that the perception held by the primary school teachers that inadequate knowledge of Mathematics is impacted to the pupils and this could be a major factor that accounts for low performance in the subject. "

To redress the situation, the Don said teachers should always teach mathematical terminologies and symbols first before teaching the actual topic, while textbook writers should also have a section for definition of mathematical terms in their textbooks. "It is the teacher's competence, ability, resourcefulness, and ingenuity through effective utilisation of appropriate language, methodology and available instructional materials that could bring out the best from the learners in terms of academic achievement. Also,  consistent engagement of students in crictical thinking, reasoning and brainstorming would lead them to better and more detailed understanding of Mathematics as well as increase their abilities to demonstrate complex problem solving, reasoning and communication skills, " she added. 

She therefore admonished teachers of Mathematics to adopt the use of effective instructional strategies that would enhance and encourage the students to meaningfully acquire the knowledge of Mathematics and problem solving skills,  to enable them to adequately participate in science and technology programmes at institutions of higher learning, adding that "this is necessary because without Mathematics, there is no science, without science, there is bo modern technology, and without modern technology, there is no modern society. "

Salman implored the students not to give room for negative influence by their peers, saying many students dislike Mathematics out of the common saying that the Mathematics is difficult without aby reasonable justification for the claim. 

She equally urged the three tiers of government in the country to ensure that mathematics is handled by competent and professional Mathematics teachers only.
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