‘Make mathematics interesting for African students’

By Lubem Gena with agency reports

African educators have been advised to make mathematics an interesting subject with a view to addressing developmental challenges facing the continent.
At the 4th Heidelberg Laureate Forum held recently in Germany, Collins Amburo Agyingi, a Cameroonian mathematics researcher at the University of South Africa, told SciDev.Net that “mathematics is global and we need to improve on students’ performance and motivation for liking the subject.”
The Heidelberg Laureate Forum is an annual event that gathered top mathematics and computer scientists to network and share experiences with the future generation.
“For students to see the benefits of mathematics at lower levels, they need to see what people do with mathematics outside academic institutions,” Agyingi explained, noting that African governments and educationists should help bring the industry closer to education for mutual benefits.

In advanced countries, Agyingi added, “people see how mathematics is used in engineering and medicine, but in Africa, it remains in the classroom.
“If people can begin to see how mathematics is used in the banking and oil industries, for instance, then they will appreciate why they want to study mathematics, but most of the times, even before students get to the university, they don’t see much value in the subject.”
Manalebish Debalike Asfaw, a mathematics doctoral student at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in her contributions, enjoined women not to look at mathematics as male-dominated discipline, but as “a logical and sequential way of doing things and with practice, women can excel in it just as much as men”.
Asfaw argues that for Africa to develop its mathematics to address the continent’s needs, it should create interest in the subject at lower levels of learning.
“If we make it simpler, easier and enjoyable early enough, many will like mathematics”, she said.
Tolulope Rhoda Fadina, a Nigerian postdoctoral student at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, added that mathematics was applicable in every sphere of life such as modeling for disease surveillance, climate change related impacts and interventions and creating computer software.”

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