Careers & Education

Practice makes perfect insists math scholar

Petre Williams-Raynor

Sunday, August 26, 2012    

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"I think if you take a certain approach to math, for example, if you live, breathe, eat mathematics, do everything with mathematics — even if you don't love it — you can do well in it."

So says Jevon Wilson, who recently scored the highest at his school — Clarendon College — in the subject at the level of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

The 17-year-old readily admits he is a lover of mathematics, but insists there is nothing to excelling in the subject, except practising.

"I honestly really love mathematics; I don't really love English. [However], as long as you devote time to the subject, you can do well. And just as how in English you can express yourself in words, I have a feeling that in math, you can express yourself using numbers," said the youngster whose father David Wilson and mother Lilith Wilson, who used to teach mathematics, are the principal and vice-principal respectively at his school.

In September, Jevon, who will begin studies for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations, having already earned eight CSEC subjects, including mathematics, with distinction, and a ninth with a grade two.

In addition to math, the subjects in which he holds distinctions are biology, chemistry, physics, information technology, geography, English language, and Spanish. The grade two he has in English literature.

Meanwhile, debate over the source of Jamaican and, by extension, Caribbean students' struggle to yield high grades in CSEC math rages on. Numerous theories about why students have consistently failed to do well and proposals on how to fix the problem have been put forward.

With the release of the recent CSEC results, that debate has gathered steam. The results show that only 33 per cent of students who sat the exam earned a passing grade — one to three — representing a decline when compared to last year's 35 per cent, and 41 per cent in 2010.

There are stakeholders who believe the poor performance is down to the failure of educators to teach the subject well; while others believe it has to do with the innate fear of the subject that is harboured by some students.

As for how to fix the problem, some players in education hold that Jamaica, for example, ought to employ specialist math teachers to teach the subject. Others believe that educators specially trained in mathematics and with a track record for delivering quality education in the subject should be paid higher salaries, in an effort to retain their services, while attracting new talent.

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