**Why the Poor Results in Mathematics?**

**By Derrick Nicholas**

The debate around the consistent, some say persistent less than acceptable pass rate in the area of Mathematics for Antigua and Barbuda continues to rage both offline and online. To be fair, public school students are the major contributors to these less than acceptable outcomes.

This writer is convinced of a few facts: (i) not all teachers of Mathematics are well versed in the subject, (ii) even those teachers who are ‘versed’ in the subject have not kept up to date with new methods of delivery, (iii) not enough time is dedicated to mental Math, and (iv) many parents are unable to provide their children with the kind of support that is required at home.

It is no secret that some Mathematics teachers are not well versed in the subject.

In fact, there are teachers who simply refuse to teach certain topics, because of their own inefficiency or lack of knowledge.

As a consequence, their students are left to either fend for themselves, or seek help elsewhere.

Mathematics, like any other subject keeps evolving: the core principles remain the same, but the methods of delivery are constantly being updated.

Math teachers need to be aware of these updates, so that they can pass them on to their students.

There is no such thing as ‘new’ Math. Instead, there are new, easier ways of solving centuries old problems.

It appears that not enough time is being dedicated to mental Math.

This is a fatal error since critical thinking is required in order to develop competency. Students’ propensity to use the calculator at first instance to solve simple problems will have dire consequences for future employers.

Additionally, many students try to memorize concepts rather than understand them. Therein lies the biggest challenge to being competent in Mathematics.

As mentioned in a previous article, some parents feel intimidated when it comes to Mathematics, and are therefore reluctant to engage with the subject.

The end result is that many students are left deprived of the help they so desperately need.

This ought not to be, especially since so much help is available. Get familiar with new ways/methods of teaching math.

This will make it easier for you to provide help to your child. Even if you cannot help your child with Math, encourage him/her to practise.

If you feel the task is greater than you, get help from a tutor. As parents, our first responsibility is to our children.

Mathematics is a core subject for any course of study or line of employment.

The need for persons to be functionally literate in Mathematics is therefore very important.

The lack of functional literacy in Mathematics is evidenced all around us – in the offices, shops, and supermarkets.

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Another abysmal failure of the ALP.

A child is not ready for secondary school if he does not know his multiplication tables; how to add, subtract, and divide.

That’s basic as putting one foot in front of the other to walk. Teach him that first. make sure he knows it well.

You can have all the new maths and fancy methods you want.

THAT IS BASIC.

The writer make a number of interesting points, but the problem goes much deeper.

Compared to their counterparts in many other small developing countries public educational policies have not changed in Antigua and Barbuda. It’s like a vehicle going down a slightly sloped road. No direction and no control to get to its goal or destination.

How are teachers evaluated for the courses they teach? If a teacher is expected to teach algebra, calculus or deferential equations, what is the teacher level of competency?

What are the tools provided to the teacher such as summertime training

that may provide new approaches to teaching math?

Who evaluates the evaluators ? Who is minding the store ?

Currently Antiguans are pursuing PHD programs in math education on scholarships and leave with pay.

On their return they will be elegible for retirement in a few years.

With their newly minted PHDs, they will leave the Government system and tutor privately.

The tax payers who have paid for the PHDs and the salary while earning the PHDs will get nothing in return.

A simple illustration among a myriad of reasons why our kids are failing.

Neither can one expect that a mother or father who only know first form level math to be able to help her child with 3rd form math.

The Institutions within the society who normally fill some of these gaps; (The churches) many of which are just charlatans, only interested in Sunday Offerings.

Another problem is that the teachers are afraid to give students “homework”. Gone are the days that teachers would give students extra practice work to do at home. Upon doing this work at home then take time to go over the solutions in class. A student of math cannot do well unless he/practices. Also, I watch all of these students going to school with not one textbook in their bag. How is the government having us pay education levy to buy textbooks and devices with textbooks and the students are not taking them to school to actually look at the problems and be active in their learning.

I disagree with the author that the teachers are to blame. As a college graduate there were topics I did not understand but as I was paying my mother’s hard earned money I found a way to help myself. In this era of technology so much information is available to these students at their fingertips but their heads are buried in social media and a preoccupation on the physical appearance. Where there is a will, there will always be a way!

Another problem is that the teachers are afraid to give students “homework”. Gone are the days that teachers would give students extra practice work to do at home. Upon doing this work at home then take time to go over the solutions in class. A student of math cannot do well unless he/practices. Also, I watch all of these students going to school with not one textbook in their bag. How is the government having us pay education levy to buy textbooks and devices with textbooks and the students are not taking them to school to actually look at the problems and be active in their learning.

I disagree with the author that the teachers are to blame. As a college graduate there were topics I did not understand but as I was paying my mother’s hard earned money I found a way to help myself. In this era of technology so much information is available to these students at their fingertips but their heads are in social media and a preoccupation on the physical appearance. Where there is a will, there will always be a way!

How are the other islands in the oecs doing to compare

ONE THOUGHT OR TWO

“Knowledge of school mathematics (A&B Public Schools) is very much like a building: If a foundation or a piece of a lower floor is missing, the building cannot stand. For example, long division requires multiplication and subtraction skills. If a child struggles with multiplication and subtraction, long division will be very difficult.”

To achieve any improvement in our Public Schools’ Mathematics results at the instructional level, we must first conduct root-cause analyses of each school to understand the specific needs – support, training, and funding for instructional change and implementation of action plans.

Here’s a related article by Derrick Nicholas with all honest and thoughtful comments:

Mathematics Pains (the headline can be: A&B Public Schools’ Mathematics Crisis!)

https://antiguanewsroom.com/observation-mathematics-pains/

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Respect

Here’s are my thoughts. At some point in the past two decades, someone decided to increase the primary schools curriculum content. This was done at the expense of the basic, fundamental, foundational knowledge. Reading,writing and arithmetic took a colossal nose dive. Students entering Secondary schools have poor reading (that’s if they can read)skills. Therefore comprehension and writing skills are at an all time low. In fact, there are students to whom a reader is assigned for examinations, including CXC.

Additionally, Secondary school promotion criteria does not require that a student pass Mathematics. A student can therefore go from say first form to fifth never really making a concerted effort at Mathematics. Under these conditions, barring divine intervention, students will continue to do poorly at Mathematics.

The ministry of education knows this, but are not willing to change the promotion criteria to insist that students pass Mathematics and English as a requirement for promotion.

This is where we need to begin.

Poor results in mathematics are related to general problems in our education system. We inherited the British colonial model where school starts at age 5. Additionally, there’s been a push to start academics with preschool children.

However, studies have shown that introducing young children to academics does more harm than good. It contributes to student burnout, student apathy, nearsightedness, discouragement, and academic failure. Check out these websites for proof:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029435-000-too-much-too-young-should-schooling-start-at-age-7/

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/feb/14/starting-age-four-school

https://www.businessinsider.com/school-start-age-2017-3

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7234578.stm

https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/better-late-than-early-a-new-approach-to-your-childs-education_raymond-s-moore_dorothy-n-moore/249154/#isbn=0883490498&idiq=3350018

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