Understanding the Law
September 21, 2007

Math for living

We have heard from persons in our society from time to time: “I am not good at Math,” “My family cannot do Math” and “I am afraid of numbers.” The problem with Math appears to cut across the school system, and by extension our society. Children are having problems at all levels with Math. CSEC recorded a mere 25% passes in the 2007 examinations. I am tempted to believe that a phobia has developed in our society for this subject area, as we hear persons making the above comments.{{more}} It is necessary to undo or get rid of the fears that are passed on from one generation to the next. Math is not a difficult subject if we would let go of our fears and apply ourselves. Perhaps “how to let go of our fears” should be the talking point in school.

My experience

When I was a Math student, I was not fortunate to have had the many text books that are around today. It was the good old Lang Arithmetic and Algebra that were my guide. They had many practice examples, but not enough worked examples. However, every evening I set aside some of my time to working out Math problems, and I could safely say that although I got some help from my brother, I managed to pass GCE “O” level Math, mainly through self help. When I prepared for Math in the UWI Certificate in Business Administration, times were better. I had a willing and approachable teacher and improved text books. My solution was to make sure that I could work out every possible example that I could put my hand on. I recall vividly all the fears that I grew up with about the word “Calculus” but I was determined not to let my fears take over my life. I found that I actually liked and mastered the area. I would never forget the day I left that examination room, because I knew that I had worked every question correctly.

To the Math student

My advice to students is not to assimilate negative vibes. Open your minds to what has to be learnt. If you are having difficulties understanding a problem in the classroom, find someone who would give you the individual attention. You can ask your peers if they are willing to help or form a Math group that is devoted to the practice of Math. If you are very good in another subject, offer to help a peer who would be willing to trade Math knowledge with you. Do not give up easily.

Your main concern is to work as many problems before the examination. Get a hard cover note book and keep samples of difficult problems for future reference. The good aspect of Math is once you have mastered an area, there is no need for long drawn out hours as you would have to do in some other subjects. Math is a subject where you can score 100% easily. Some examiners would give credit if you show clear knowledge in the steps you present, even if you made an error in your calculation. Try to master the skills. Some sociologists speak about deferred gratification. It means that you must make some sacrifices today for greater enjoyment and benefits later.

I cannot emphasise enough the benefits and the satisfaction in acquiring Math skills. Math is part of living; it is intrinsically wrapped up in many of the functions that we perform each day, especially when we have to assess quantity, time, distance, among others.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com