Teachers say that students’ fear of mathematics is a factor behind the general poor performance of students in schools.
According to several teachers who talked to this newspaper in a mini-survey, students perform poorly in the subject due to the existing phobia.
It is a sad reality that the fear starts from home at a child’s tender age, when parents identify the subject to children as the most troublesome.
Parents play a pivotal role in children’ math attitudes and skills, starting at a tender age. Charles Karamaga, a maths teacher and a head teacher of Kayonza Modern School, notes that many parents unconsciously teach children to fear maths.
“A parent who reacts to a child’s mathematics questions or homework by saying, I have never been good in math, or, I haven’t done math in my life, sends wrong message to kids that math is not possible and they probably can’t do it either,” he says.
It is also on record that most teachers knowingly or unknowingly discourage learners from doing maths in schools.
This is true particularly in a situation where such teachers failed to succeed in the subject while in school.
Such scenario, according to Charles Karamaga sets a very negative precedent and has been students’ undoing for quite some time.
“It is unfortunate that some teachers still discourage students from doing maths depending on their background. We are trying to reverse the trend by educating teachers to avoid such discouragement. You know mere utterance from a teacher that maths is tough is enough to keep away hundreds of students,” observes the head teacher.
Teachers at Kayonza Modern School, one of the schools that perform well in the country admit that they have not been at the top, due to absence of maths culture in their school.
“We had the second and third best science students in the country...in the province we are second to none. But, in maths we were not doing well...students pass with A’s in all subjects and end with failure in maths. This must end,” said one maths teacher.
There are some university faculties that some school leavers can never dream of joining after high school, due to poor or none maths background.
In fact, even Kayonza Modern, regarded as one of the best performing science schools in Eastern Province, and indeed the whole country, had no maths as a subject at Advanced Level until recently.
“The absence of maths combination has kept our students away from applied mathematics in higher institutions. We recently introduced combinations like PCM, PEM, etc, to address the issue,” admitted Karamaga.
Maths is the mother of all subjects that when one fails it, they will certainly go wrong in other subjects.
Researchers and educationists admit that a student who fails maths will not do well in other subjects, particularly sciences.
All subjects have got elements of maths and students with no basic knowledge of the subject will always find it tough to sail through.
Richard Gakwerere, a student at KIST, notes that girls are the worst affected by the existing maths phobia.
“We shouldn’t be surprised that there are few girls in science and technology. It is all about girls’ poor performance in maths,” he explained.
“It is true that you will find very few students in applied sciences and maths in universities, but the numbers are alarming when it comes to girls. Girls’ maths phobia is exacerbated by cultural beliefs...you know the ‘tough things are not for females’ belief. Female have to go for soft things; attitude, coupled with the maths phobia, compounds the issue,’ he said.
Teachers, however, believe that creating a school environment that motivates learners to do maths and sciences was an important step.
A school must have laboratories of all subjects with a kind of decorated environment that attracts even the laziest learner.
“A school environment that promotes science and maths teaching and learning is essential. You need beautiful science labs to attract learners’ attention,” Gakwerere observes.
By Stephen Rwembeho