Maths phobia affecting Ghana’s growth – Anku

The president of the Ghana Mathematics Society, Professor Sitsofe Anku is advocating for a revolution in the teaching and studying of mathematics in Ghana to help advance the development of the country.

He was of the view that the failure of Ghanaians to overcome their aversion of mathematics is the cause of the many fundamental problems the country is saddled with.

“Everything is about numbers, the economy is based on numbers. Potholes develop on our roads because there is a mathematical aspect to it. Did you know Single Spine failed because of a math problem? That’s why its spine broke. When it comes to measurement, our artisans don’t measure well. That’s why everything in Ghana is shoddy,” he told the host of The Lounge, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo Friday.

There is growing concern over the high rate of failure of mathematics and science among Senior High School (SHS) students who sit for the West African Senior High School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

The Chief Examiner’s Report from the West African Examination Council (WAEC) revealed that over the last five years, SHS students have performed poorly in mathematics and science. Early this year, the Education Minister, Matthew Opoku-Prempeh pledged to ensure the restoration of student interest in mathematics and science because the two subjects are critical to the country’s development agenda.

Prof Anku attributed the fear of math and science among students to three key factors; the teachers, the curriculum and the students themselves.

“With the teachers, most of them don’t understand the mathematics they are teaching and they carry the fear they have in themselves into their students. They intimidate them in the classroom so from the very beginning they begin to hate the subject mathematics,” he explained.

“Our curriculum is too loaded and it’s too much theory so the students tune off… We don’t practice mathematics. We only wait for formulas to solve problems so it doesn’t make it enjoyable. The students are also part of the problem; they are always on WhatsApp,” he lamented.

An electrical engineer and CEO of Airtel Ghana, Lucy Quist who was also a guest on the show advised that if Ghana allows itself to embrace math, “we can understand life better. We need to break math down for people to find their place in life.”

Quist who is a strong advocate of Science, Technology and Maths Education (STEM), especially among girls stressed the important part math plays in critical thinking saying, “math helps us to think critically and analyse problems. We can’t run away from math. As a continent and a country, we can’t move forward without STEM.”
On her part, Jane Egerton-Idehen, a Nigerian engineer who works with Ericsson in Ghana blamed the fear of math to cultural perceptions.

“There is this cultural perception that math is difficult and not for girls. I decided at an early age that I wanted to study engineering but my parents said it was difficult but I did it anyway,” she recalled.