View Full Version : Problematics – The Real Definition Of Mathematics In Our Mist

The Informer
8th August 2011, 09:47 AM
Problematics!!! Maybe this is the new definition of mathematics in our time. Mathematics is so much of a problem to many a people that sometimes I wonder whether the word problematic was coined out of the two most unwanted words alive – problem and mathematics. And much so because, to many, mathematics is nothing but a monster of a problem. Yet the importance of mathematics in our everyday life is not lost on many.

Mathematics is so important to our everyday life that if there ought to be only one discipline to be pursued by all it’s got to be this monster. Many have made worst decisions in life which if they appreciated mathematics they wouldn’t have made. Growing up, Kojo was a very good footballer hailed by his peers and teachers. He dreamed of pursuing his football carrier to the max with placement in his most successful team in the world, Manchester United. He plans to focus more on football (and of course less on academics) in order to pursue his long-cherished dream. But this was opposed by his dad who made sure Kojo focused on his academics and excelled with a degree.
Today Kojo holds a reputable position in one of the country’s top financial institutions. He did not get to play for his dear Man U, but he is very comfortable in life. In fact, he gets to follow Manchester United everywhere they are on the planet earth. Thank God he can afford the latest and most sophisticated devises to do that. When he looks back he thinks his dad was right because many of his colleagues who were equally talented in football are still struggling for a place in first division clubs. Out of frustration, some have abandoned their football carrier. Others too are holding on, waiting for a miracle to pass them by.


Kojo’s dad’s explanation for his decision was simple; if Kojo focused on football, there are fewer prosperous football clubs both home and abroad ready to sign him on. However if he focused on his academics and excelled there are many companies both home and abroad which will need his expertise. In making such a decision, Kojo’s dad was only applying the principle of probability in mathematics a game of chance. The question was: in which direction does my son stand a better chance of making it? Today there are many footballers who are waiting for a miracle to pass them by. Not that pursuing one’s passion and carrier is bad but a simple principle of mathematics will teach you that with education ones chances are unlimited. And nobody said if you had a degree you cannot become a professional in other areas. Off course there are professional footballers who have university and other tertiary degrees.

Sister Akos is consulting pastor Azorzor. Her problem is that anytime she buys and sells she makes a loss. She thinks; “this one de3 3nye kwa”; that there is something behind her failure in the buying and selling business. The only thing she does not realize is that she never appreciated the principle of profit and loss in mathematics in her school days. And the reality is that today a good number of our people cannot handle the simple arithmetic involved in buying and selling. In the mean time the “pastors” are cashing-in on their misfortunes. If people cannot comprehend simple issues of profit and loss how can they analyze daily life situations, such as whether it is better to buy or lease a car based on the rates of interest; how to best put one’s money to work by looking at simple versus compound interests and managing accounts; how the returns of stocks work; how to communicate data visually; and numerous other applications that math sheds light on.

Problem-solving skills, the most useful type of knowledge one can possess, are best acquired through rigorous math courses. It is applied in every aspect of life, commerce and industry, architecture and constructions, fashion, sports, in relationships and you name it. And we keep on wandering and meandering as a nation because we have abandoned a basic principle of life. In the area of construction and architecture a former president of the Ghana Mathematics Society Professor Sitsofe Anku observed that the scenario where three storey buildings were collapsing and killing people in Ghana whereas 166-storey buildings were standing tall and intact elsewhere was not acceptable. He questioned why the mathematics of ratio- "sand to cement to water" were not applied to obtain the appropriate strength of concretes?

The country realizes the importance of mathematics in our daily life which is why the subject is compulsory from basic to the secondary level of education. Even in tertiary institutions some institutions make a course in mathematics a requirement for graduation. At the university of Ghana Basic Statistics, a course in statistics is a requirement for graduation for humanity students. The revised curricula of the university now make logic and reasoning, an applied mathematics, compulsory for all first year students. The country has taken steps to address this problem. There is the institution of a mathematics day where workshops and seminars are held for students, teachers and other stakeholders in order to whip up interest in the discipline. Mathematics teachers are sent on refresher courses where they are taught new ways of making the subject attractive to students. One of such workshops, which was given prominence in the media last week, is what has prompted me to write this piece.

In spite of the emphases we have placed on mathematics it still remains the number one problem for most students. The failure rate at the basic and secondary levels is unimaginable. Remedial schools seem to be sprouting at all corners ready to feed on the weakness of the system. This leaves me with doubt whether we have made any significant gains at ending the vicious cycle.

What is clear to me is that we seem to have identified the problem. We are aware that the problem starts at the basic level; and that boys/men do better in math than girls/women; that there are a fewer qualified teachers of mathematics in the country, especially the remote areas. We also know that the approach to teaching the subject contributes to the problem that we see today. What we seem not to have been able to do is how to tackle the problem.

Until we are able to crack this code many a ladies remain prays in the hands of some “math sharks” to be taken advantage of; until that day, many a guardians will pay double, triple or more for education with no results; until we find the antidote, many a people will remain behind the door of tertiary education waiting for a miracle to take them in. Whatever the case may be I am positive that this country will definitely win the war over this monster of a problem called mathematics.

Source: Kwaku Botwe