For the past more than five years in teaching mathematics, I have observed that more and more students have difficulties understanding mathematical concepts. It becomes even clearer when one looks at the trend of mathematics performance in the High school and Basic School final examinations conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC).
Data from the final examinations indicates that mathematics performance has been abysmal over the years.
The phobia of math can be felt almost everywhere. It is likely that six out of every ten students will list mathematics as a subject he or she fears or have some difficulties.
Below I list the key factors I have observed are the main reasons why students find it difficult to grasp even basic math concept and subsequent failure in the final examinations.
As I teach in the high school, most of the students admitted lacked basic math concepts. Right from the class one, the understanding was not captured. Most of the topics being taught at the high school level one (SHS1) are already treated in the Basic school level (JHS).
But it becomes obvious in their behavior and responses during classroom discussions that, those topics are new or with little understanding.
In most cases, math is taught without tangible materials and students see math as an abstract subject and does not see the connection between the subject and their real lives.
In fact, most teachers in the Basic school complain a lot about lack of adequate modern teaching and learning materials (TLMs).
When the foundation is weak as it is true in buildings, the structure will have no future. Likewise, the major issue has to do with foundation of their mathematical journey.
Government should, as a matter of all seriousness, regularly organize sensitization programs for the teachers who are teaching maths.
TLMs too should be procured and distributed to schools especially those in the rural areas. Most basic schools in the public schools especially those in the rural areas are in deplorable state not to even talk about TLMs.
Another observation has been the fact that some teachers do not have the requisite skills to teach the subject because they themselves struggled before getting a pass mark at various colleges of education or at the universities.
In some cases, they cannot explain the concepts better to the understanding of the learners.
The English language as medium of instruction is another challenge impeding students understanding of mathematics.
If students are taught from infancy in their mother tongue, it helps build a formidable foundation and as such future concepts are easily accommodated.
I believe it is base on this findings that made the Ghana Education Service to introduce the usage of local languages from Stage one through three as medium of instruction in the lower primary.
Mother tongue is a key feature when it comes to oral development of any child.
I have realized over the years that the student that I teach have problems with simple comprehension when it comes to basic statements. It is no wonder that, throughout the chief examiner’s report of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) over the years has cited students inability to translate simple mathematical statement into math expression as a major weakness in the final exams.
I have always advised my students to take their English language with all seriousness it deserves. Further they should practice reading, writing and speaking correctly
And because all the concept are presented in the English language, one have no excuse not to use the English to teach in class.
Once more, because of the bulky nature of the syllabus teachers usually rushed through the syllabus in order yo complete it. I was simply in support of the four year duration for the High School as against its current form of three years.
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I would like to call to the attention of the Ghana education service and other stakeholders in the education sector to conduct a research on whether teachers are able to complete their syllabus or not, especially when it comes to mathematics at the senior high school level.
Am very optimistic that, most of the teachers will admit that they have not been able to complete their syllabus.
In some cases, teachers have to resort to extra tuition before they can complete syllabus and even do revision. And this comes with extra fee from parents, in rare situations it is free.
Instead of attending to individual needs, teachers tend to clamp all the students together knowing very well that such behavior is not a good practice.
When a teacher realizes that a handful of the students in the class have understood a what is being taught, he/she moves on.
It is worthy to note that students tend to read mathematics just like any reading material such passage or history account. Mathematics should be practiced and the more one solves and be consistent the better. After solving several varieties of questions, the person become well equipped.
Are you a mathematics or other physical sciences teacher, what have been your observations?
Are your learners too finding the mathematics or math base concept difficult and can you say what are the causes of these?
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