Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Math teacher problems hurting students

Published:Thursday | March 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

DATA FROM the Ministry of Education has revealed that a number of teachers in the education system are still not qualified to teach mathematics.

This issue first came to light when Dr Tamika Benjamin was appointed as national mathematics coordinator a few years ago.

Benjamin used the occasion of her keynote address at the opening ceremony of The Mico University College (Mico) Research Day activities yesterday to discuss the issue again. The event was held in honour of mathematics luminary Professor Claude Packer.

She noted that research conducted by the ministry indicates that, of the 10,000 math teachers in the primary-school system, 39 per cent of them did not obtain a pass grade in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate 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 math at the fifth-form level.

"There are too few qualified teachers in our classrooms teaching mathematics," she lamented.


Another piece of data which came to light was a phobia of mathematics among teachers of the subject. Of the 4,000 teachers surveyed, 19 per cent of them indicated that they feared or disliked math.

This Benjamin sees as a systemic problem that affects student performance.

"The quality of math education is dependent upon the quality of the teacher. Teachers who go into the classroom with a fear of math pass their misconceptions on to their students," she said.

Benjamin also raised alarm about the practice of some teachers' colleges in relaxing the standards for matriculation to math-education programmes. She is calling for the practice to stop as it affects the quality of math teaching.

"We did diagnostic testing of those students who were qualified to matriculate and we found gaps in their mastery of mathematical concepts. So you can imagine the gaps for those that are not qualified," Benjamin reasoned.

Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, who delivered remarks at the ceremony, also highlighted that there is a significant deficit of qualified math teachers in secondary schools.

"If we were to have 500 trained math teachers, we could easily absorb them into the system. This is the kind of gap we are facing," he said.