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Gov't moves to boost math teaching

Wednesday, March 06, 2013    

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THE Ministry of Education is moving to address the deficit in mathematics at the primary and secondary levels.

Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites says that the ministry will be increasing the allocation "towards ensuring that sufficient mathematics specialists are placed in schools where there are weaknesses".

He said that only nine per cent of secondary school teachers are qualified to teach mathematics up to grade 11, while 31 per cent of primary teachers are not adequately qualified to teach the subject.

"The results... indicate to us that 615 of our primary schools needs support because they are attaining less than 50 per cent mastery at the grade four level and 132 of our high schools are identified as having a critical Mathematics deficit," he bemoaned.

The minister was speaking Monday at the launch of the ministry's inaugural National Mathematics Week at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

The Grade Four Numeracy Test results show that in 2009, some 45 per cent of the age cohort achieved the requisite level of mastery in numeracy; 38 per cent in 2010;

46 per cent in 2011; and the pass rate improved to 54 per cent in 2012.

For the Grade Six Achievement Test, 53 per cent of students achieved mastery in 2009; 57 per cent in 2010; 62 per cent in 2011; and 63 per cent in 2012. Meanwhile, there was a 41 per cent pass rate for Mathematics in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate in 2009, which declined to 38 per cent in 2012.

Rev Thwaites said that young people have a fear for Mathematics, which must be addressed, for the advancement of the subject and ultimately, the development of the nation.

"We must begin to obviate the Math phobia... if we do it right the first time, then the little children... will understand how simple (it is)", he said, adding that the millions spent on remedial studies could be used in other areas.

The minister stated that the staging of Mathematics Week is aimed at correcting the deficit in the subject area.

"If we are able, by this Mathematics Week... to increase people's awareness at all levels... of the importance of acquiring competency in numeracy and in mathematics generally, then we shall have begun a great work," he said.

Rev Thwaites commended the various partners in the initiative, including the Jamaica Teachers Association, noting that all stakeholders must unite around the "task of improving our outcomes in numeracy and the continuing educational development of our teachers."

The week, which runs from March 3 to 8, is being held under the theme 'Mathematically Charged: Empowered for Life'.

Among the highlights is the staging of a National Mathematics Exposition on World Math Day tomorrow at the University of the West Indies.

There will also be a series of competitions for students and teachers at the primary and secondary levels, and also student teachers.

 — JIS

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