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Letter of the Day: Specialise math teaching at primary schools

Published:Tuesday | April 14, 2015 | 4:00 AM


The single most important factor in students' performance is teacher quality. Data from the Ministry of Education reveals that many teachers teaching mathematics aren't qualified to teach the subject.

An article published in The Gleaner of March 25, 2015 titled 'Math-teacher problems hurting students' made the point that many of our teachers are not qualified and competent to teach the subject. Data coming out of the Ministry of Education revealed that of 10,000 mathematics teachers in the primary-school system, 3,900 of them didn't obtain a pass grade in the CSEC mathematics examination.

At the secondary level, 874 of the 1,800 mathematics teachers are not qualified to teach the subject, and only 180 are qualified to teach mathematics at the fifth-form level.

I must applaud the Ministry of Education for the many initiatives so far geared at improving the teaching and learning of mathematics in our schools. While there was an increase in the national average, in terms of students' performance in CSEC Mathematics for 2014, much more needs to be done to arrest this problem.

As educators, we can no longer sit back and accept this level of achievement. What more should be done? And what's the way forward?

I offer the following solutions:

There should be a serious rethinking of how we train our primary-school teachers. I am proposing that there be subject teaching of mathematics at the primary level. This will allow for only teachers who are qualified and competent in the mathematical pedagogical content knowledge to teach the subject.

There needs to be a consistent vision of what mathematics classrooms ought to be.

common vision

I visited mathematics classrooms in our Jamaican schools where there is wonderful teaching and learning taking place; in others, not much is happening.

The Ministry of Education needs to continue to get Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All, published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NTCM) in the USA, into the hands of more educators, and push the common vision of teaching mathematics for understanding and to develop problem-solving, rather than a skill-based subject with low-level questions and activities.

There is also the need to figure out how to differentiate and meet students' needs in a climate where class size frequently exceeds 40, compared to typical classes in the USA and UK that I have visited, of around 20-25.


Member, National Mathematics Teacher

Education Committee