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Changing Students’ Attitudes Towards Mathematics Through A Maths Camp

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Mathematics is a problem in Ghana. Many students have a negative attitude towards it, even fearing it. This is partly due to the way it is presented to them in school: as pure calculations that must be memorized with no apparent meaning or use in the real world. We believe this perception is wrong, and moreover can be changed in students so that they appreciate and enjoy the rich world of mathematics. This is aim of the Ghana Maths Camp.

From 3 – 15 August 2015, 38 senior high school students from across Ghana gathered at AIMS-Ghana, Birwa in the Central Region to participate in the 2015 Ghana Maths Camp. The camp’s aims to change students’ attitude towards the subject by exposing them to the wider world of real-life mathematics, through games, technology and puzzles. Students leave the camp with new skills, broader knowledge and a much keener interest (even love!) for mathematics and the sciences in general.

The first week was all about the preparation of the camp. 13 local, together with 7 international volunteers met to plan the activities which would take place in the following “camp week”. Volunteers ranged from high school teachers, undergraduate students, Masters and PhD students and mathematics educators, making for a diverse group with a range of skills.

On the first day, Prof E.K. Essel, Academic Director of AIMS-Ghana and Dr B.K. Nkansah, lecturer from the University of Cape Coast, welcomed the students before sessions began. Both speakers elaborated on the importance of mathematics, with Prof. Essel stressing the broad skills a mathematician has when he stated that “Mathematicians are a convertible currency!”.

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Throughout the week all activities were based on 5 themes, chosen to excite and expose students to ideas they have never seen before. These themes were: Mathematical Modelling, Programming, Mathematical Thinking, Probability & Game Theory and Geometry. Whatever the theme, the focus was always on problem solving and critical thinking skills mixed with student engagement and active participation with the content.

Feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive. Comments from written journals such as…

“today’s sessions were really fun. We learnt about Fibonacci numbers, Binary and probability. This camp has really improved the way I think about math.”

“I am very very proud of this particular Wednesday at AIMS Ghana because owing to that day I have no fear to mathematics again.”

“mathematics is fun, no more difficult”

demonstrate that students left the camp viewing mathematics differently.

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Students also enjoyed exploring new areas of mathematics and being taught in a different way…

There are so many ways to solve a problem; so many different approaches that can be taken; so many options.”

It’s maths, yet, an applied version. It’s fun to see that math isn’t always what is in a textbook.”

And many left the camp believing that…

“I’m sure this is going to help me in life and in my career”

 

At the end of the week students were given certificates and received all the Maths Camp materials and more on a DVD in the hope they will continue enjoying mathematics as they did in the camp, and share what they have gained with others when they return to school.

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After now successfully running two maths camp in Ghana, preparations for next year’s camp have already begun and more information can be found on our website: http://www.africanmathsinitiative.net/ghana/.

 

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