The Ministry of Education is embarking on a national campaign to heighten the awareness and importance of developing students’ numeracy skills.
As part of this campaign, teachers and parents are being encouraged to play a greater role in developing numeracy habits in their children from an early age.
Speaking at the launch of the Butterkist National Primary Schools’ Mathematics Competition, at the Terra Nova Hotel, in Kingston, today (February 24), Minister of Education, Hon. Holness said this is important as it complements the aim of the Ministry in achieving numeracy.
“One of the first things that the Ministry wants to correct, in terms of the pedagogy, is to ensure that teachers are able to explain the relevance of the mathematical principles that they are teaching. Chalk and talk will not cut it with mathematics,” he said.
He argued that the placement of numeracy specialists in “weaker schools” is critical, as they complement the Principals and mathematics teachers, better enabling them with relevant teaching materials, while modeling best practices in the teaching of the subject.
“They (numeracy specialists) are there to ensure that good teaching practice becomes standard operating procedures and that it is embedded in documentation and institutional management,” he said.
Mr. Holness pointed out that the Ministry has developed a guide for teachers and schools in the delivery of the mathematics curriculum at the primary and secondary levels in the educational system.
“We have the revised primary curriculum from grades one to six; we have our activity booklet from grades one to three, and activity booklets from grades four to six and we are going to be expanding those,” he said.
The Minister said that teaching strategies have been adopted at the primary level by using reading and literature as a strategy in teaching the concepts of mathematics. “It is an easier way in reaching students, using literature and games as a strategy in teaching,” he added.
Mr. Holness pointed out that sample lesson and video tape demonstration lesson plans have also been developed and are available, free of cost, to teachers, and that some schools have been utilising these materials in their classrooms.
“More importantly though, we have taken steps to ensure that the teachers leaving teachers’ colleges, leave with a strong grounding in mathematics that they are going to teach. The Government will be supporting our teachers’ colleges to ensure that the new entrants have the necessary qualifications and that they are supported with proper teaching strategies (when they graduate),” he said.
The Minister emphasised that the “cultural acceptance” and “fear” of mathematics should be changed within the island, where illiteracy and innumeracy are equally shameful, adding that a society needs to be created, in which people want to learn mathematics and are proud of their mathematical achievements.
Highlighting the importance of the subject, he noted that civilization has grown exponentially since the development of mathematics.
“There is no progress in any field of endeavour without mathematics. Maths is a language.which can be used to describe any phenomenon in nature, but it is a far more precise language than any of the other languages and that is why it is important that our children develop this other language,” he said.
He congratulated the Seprod Group of Companies, through its Butterkist brand, for sponsoring the National Primary Schools’ Mathematics Competition, adding that contests such as these are well needed in Jamaica, as they can help foster an interest in, and a love of mathematics.