Calculation Time a success at Port Antonio PrimarySaturday, February 25, 2017
BY NIBBIAN MORGAN Sunday Observer writer
In order to improve the teaching of mathematics in schools, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is paying greater attention to some institutions at the primary level.
During a two-day event called the Development Assistance Press Tour recently, the mathematics improvement programme, dubbed Calculation Time, focused on the Port Antonio Primary School in Portland.
Representatives from the Japanese Embassy and JICA used the school as the first stop along the journey, and based upon their responses, they were happy to see the grade one students in action and grasping the essence of the programme.
JICA volunteer Yutato Furuta, who is assigned to the school as a tutor, and co-teacher Novlette Forrester Graham said they were both impressed with the attitude and output of the students.
Calculation Time is a JICA-sponsored initiative to improve calculation skills at the primary level of education. The Ministry of Education, too, has endorsed the project to see how best fluency of calculations throughout the nation can be applied.
Calculation Time is currently applied in 65 primary schools. The programme was introduced to the Port Antonio Primary School five years ago.
Furuta, who is on a two-year assignment, is in his eighth month at the institution. Apart from assisting with teaching, he is also working on implementing a new method of calculation time for grade one, because in the past the material was not suitable for that level.
Furuta teaches the students by following the concrete, pictorial, abstract (CPA) step.
"I think the biggest problem in Jamaica’s math education is the lack of conceptual understanding. Jamaican students are just memorising the procedure of math calculations; they don’t know what happens in the math sentence and they don’t know the meaning of the calculation, so I think we need to teach that concept and the meaning of calculations," Furuta told the
Jamaica Observer in an interview, outlining that he uses various materials such as three dimensional objects, laminated queue cards with depictions and diagrams, so that the students can "feel" the numbers.
Principal Kennecha Davis Williams said of the programme and students: "We want them to be fluent with their calculations and not only limit themselves to counting the fingers or the toes, but to develop their mental aptitude."
Numeracy levels have improved over the years, but mathematics fluency has been a national problem, Williams said.
"Being one of the big institutions in Portland, I think it was befitting that we were a part of it. We did not have much success as it relates to numeracy and we still are not where we want to be. That’s perhaps the main reason for JICA to have chosen this institution to be a part of the project from inception till now," she stated.
In developing the Calculation Time programme, teachers are trained annually at workshops, and Furuta plays his part by sharing his lesson plans, materials and observations via theYouTube page JaMatica.
Calculation Time is structured in such a way that Furuta may only teach a specified task from it for 15 minutes each day for 90 days.
The teaching materials that JICA provides are not allowed to leave the classrooms. However, students may continue the process of learning with the development of an application software which may be accessed at any time.