Maths problem will not be solved if no proper diagnosis

2017-07-27 06:01

For the past few days I have been struggling with the current conversation that is taking place about Mathematics, whether it should be offered in schools or not.

I have heard academics, departmental spin doctors and ordinary citizens adding to the conversation.
So what sparked the debate?

Let’s get the facts before we remove the fat.

Simple arithmetics - counting, adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying, are fundamental to modern daily life.

Notwithstanding the obvious value of understanding the exchange of money, these basic concepts are vital to mathematics and are essential life skills.

We currently hear in the media that SA is in dire need of scarce skills in the fields of engineering, accountancy, forensics specialists, mathematicians and so on. All of those require mathematics.

In 2010 we built stadiums and imported all the skilled labour to a country that has high unemployment rate.

What is at the source of the high rate of matric failure? Why is there lack of pupil interest in maths?

Does the department of education not have enough mathematicians or are the mathematics books hard to source.

All the questions I can think of, there is an answer because the private schools are flying high with not less than 80% pass rate.

26% of our budget is spent on education. We are not under-resourced or under-funded.

We could and should be achieving the same results. We don’t need to think hard about the solution.

I was astonished when I heard the department of education spokesperson saying “most of the public school children do not need mathematics because they choose artistic talent courses at tertiary.”

The simplest question then is how many artists die poor.

While the arts are essential to our basic education, so is the ability to reason and rationalise. The sciences train young brains to think laterally, they are broadly considered difficult subjects because they require us to think ‘outside the box’ but also to follow tried and tested principles.

These must be considered essential attributes even of artists who need to think for themselves and support themselves as we all do.

Mathematics helps with quick decision making and critical analysis thinking.

Thabo Mbeki had an interesting conversation on Power FM, whne he said: “If we misdiagnose a disease, we will offer a wrong cure.”

This mirrors our crisis: Maths is not the problem - but the lack of dedication and the method being taught in public schools, is.

Elvis Qolo Nyanga

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