What is the most hated subject in the world? Just take your time and type that question on Google and see the answers that you will get. Mathematics ranks high as the most dreaded subject by kids in the world. So, is it not strange that the subject lends itself as the most logical and the most systematic finds itself in the basket of the most hated subject in the world? What an irony, to say the very least.
“The only way to learn Mathematics is to do Mathematics.” — Paul Halmos.
Mathematics is an essential subject because it plays out in our lives one way or the other—it is the nucleus of pretty much all professions because we use it in everything we do. In the educational system, mathematics is a compulsory subject and meant to be interesting. However, in Africa precisely, just like in other continents, most kids fear Mathematics and grow into adulthood, still hating Mathematics. Why is that so?
Habitat for Humanity provides a robust list of African educational challenges. Some of them are poor health and nutrition, crisis and instability, poor quality content and processes, poor legal enforcement of educational policies, to mention but a few. Education in Africa may have evolved in some parts, but in some other areas, it remains stagnant. Only a few innovative schools see the need to keep growing in the way kids learn in school.
6 Reasons Why Many Kids Hate Math in Africa
The challenges of education in a broader spectrum spills over into the dread of Mathematics by kids in Africa. With the high percentage of Mathematics haters amongst kids, we keep wondering why the numbers keep rising. There are many questions to be answered because these kids grow up still not being Mathematics fans. As adults, we too have had our fair share of the Mathematics experience, and we grew up with the Mathematics trauma. Why is this so? Here are some reasons to ponder:
#1. A Poor History of Telling the Story of Mathematics
The story of Early Mathematics in Africa is a fun one that most children in Africa don’t know. Storytelling builds interest in a child’s mind to explore the world of Mathematics, but history generally isn’t well told in most parts of Africa today. Many years ago, Africans used Geometry, Algebra, and Numerals in their daily activities, and they spread the knowledge with ease. Math in ancient Africa had many exciting facts, but we don’t hear these stories in schools. Instead, kids attend Mathematics classes and go straight to the numbers and not the story behind the numbers, making Mathematics less attractive in the educational system. So tell the story of Mathematics; make it fun and exciting!
#2. Harsh Teaching Concept
Growing up, we all feared Mathematics teachers. The teacher and the subject itself were intimidating. The subject taught in school came with many punishments when students can’t seem to put the numbers together or solve equations. We couldn’t understand the concept of doing lengthy calculations to arrive at zero, the concluding answer. Asking questions over and over only led to disciplinary actions from teachers because it’s believed that the more you don’t understand the subject, the lesser you’re smart.
Some kids, to date, want to skip Math classes or pretend to be sick to avoid looking at the numbers on the blackboard. Teachers handle the subject in an authoritarian manner as though punishing the student can make him or her any more competent at Mathematics. Teachers have been using this complicated method for years in the belief that if you are strict, students will learn Mathematics. Sadly, the cruel way of teaching this subject only stirs fear in the students’ minds and makes them view mathematics as a monster, which is why most African children dislike it.
#3. Frustration from Lack of Motivation
In some parts of Africa, the educational system isn’t encouraging for teachers either. Some of these teachers also get frustrated as the students. When there’s no motivation from the teachers, the students suffer it. When the teacher isn’t well appreciated, especially for a challenging subject as Mathematics, the students don’t get the best out of the teacher. So, Mathematics becomes a frustrating journey—teachers are not well compensated, and students are not well taught. All the teacher thinks of is his or her survival and less of the students’ future; this is a bitter truth the educational system barely admits.
#4. Rigid Mathematics Curriculum
Most schools are rigid with their curriculum and teaching methods, especially some government schools in Africa. A school can use the same Mathematics material and teaching concept for more than 30 years without thinking of new ways to grow the school’s Mathematics learning culture. The same goes for other subjects taught in schools as well. There’s no room for growth, and kids do not find learning fun. The head of school has a significant role in creating a more flexible curriculum suitable for today’s students. Studying Mathematics as a boring routine makes a lot of students hate it. Schools should also understand that it’s okay if a child isn’t good at Math or Science per se. They should encourage other aspects of the child’s knowledge rather than weaken the child’s self-esteem.
#5. Lack of Innovation
As stated above, a lack of innovation in the educational system is another reason kids hate Mathematics in Africa. In the words of Suzie Boss, “The first step in teaching students to innovate is making sure that educators have opportunities to be innovators themselves.” The innovation here can be letting go of how Mathematics is being taught in schools and using a different approach with more actions than words. For example, it is possible to teach Math using digital games, art, or even story concepts that create numbers.
“Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations or algorithms: it is about understanding.” — William Paul Thurston.
Making kids love mathematics in Africa is about thinking outside the box on how schools should teach the subject. In “10 Tips for Teachers: How to teach Maths creatively by Marina Lewis-King,” the author suggests various ways to make learning math fun. She suggests that teachers should: play more games, read mini Maths stories, tell their own Mathematics stories, try Mathematical dramas, combine Maths with visual arts, get to model making, run Mathematics festivals, embed mastery, institute a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) Club, etc. Innovation in teaching Mathematics can create the most brilliant minds in the world of science.
#6. No Parental Inclusion
We live in a hectic world, and, understandably, working parents may not have all the time to be fully involved in a child’s homework or school assignment. As much as parents could get help by hiring a home tutor, especially teaching Mathematics, parents should also be present emotionally and psychologically for their children. Most kids come home being mentally drained from the hectic Mathematical calculations that they go through in school, and sometimes it gets them cranky that they hate to do the Math assignments from school.
As parents, we may not be able to put the numbers together, but we can make them feel better about themselves and letting them know that you’ve got them, whether they’re Mathematics champions or not. Parents need to be a backbone of support. They should never become terrors coming down on their wards like kamikaze pilots going in for the disciplinary takedown. Parents also need to help strengthen their kids’ confidence and esteem that may have been tampered with in school directly or indirectly.
Kids hating Mathematics in Africa is a core subject many people don’t care to talk about, but it is something that educators can address. Kids hate Mathematics in school because of their poor history in Mathematics, cruel teaching method from teachers, and frustration from a lack of motivation. Another reason kids hate Mathematics is the rigid mathematics curriculum in school, a lack of innovation in the educational system, and poor parental inclusion to support their mental health.
“Without mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is mathematics. Everything around you is numbers.” — Shakuntala Devi.
With a bit of creativity, we can make Mathematics a little more fun than it is right now. We all have our share of stories about our stint with Mathematics. What has been your Mathematics experience back in school? Please share in the comment section.