Youngsters urged to embrace math
Young Jamaicans with careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are urging students to take greater interest in mathematics, as they prepare to fill roles in critical fields viewed as the engine of the new economy.
The pass rate of Jamaican students in mathematics at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level plunged by 23 per cent in 2021.
In the June-July exam administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council, only 38.2 per cent of the students earned grades one to three.
Data analyst Savannah Grant said the subject plays a very important role in the field which is rapidly advancing as companies seek to make data driven decisions.
Grant was among the panellists at a STEM Career Forum, held in observance of National Mathematics Week, which was celebrated under the theme ‘Born to do Math’.
“But you can’t think of just addition, subtraction, calculus and linear algebra. You have to think about it in terms of problem solving, so the more math you do, the more analytical you start to think, seeing trends and predicting events,” Grant explained.
Artificial intelligence (AI) researcher, Matthew Stone works in a field of emerging science that enables machines to simulate human ability and intelligence.
He said many of the conveniences enjoyed by Jamaicans and people around the world are due to AI.
“A lot of what we call AI is really machine learning. It’s basically taking data that could be images, sound or text and making predictions from that. It involves math, probability and statistics which you are all learning in school is important. Don’t think that the math you are learning is useless. Linear algebra is a very core component in machine learning, so take your math seriously,” he urged.
Stone is working on a project which will use autonomous drones to increase security and, to a greater extent, assist in Jamaica’s crime fight.
The researcher also encouraged students who have an interest in AI to explore resources online.
In her remarks, Minister of Education Fayval Williams said the ministry has identified increasing tertiary STEM enrolment as a crucial priority for the country’s development.
“This position recognises the urgent need to increase the level of innovation and critical thinking required for future careers and economic advancement in Jamaica,” Williams said.
The minister added that deliberate steps must be taken at the primary and secondary levels to cultivate STEM talent and interest.
Williams said a prime example is the National Coding in Schools Programme, which will benefit 400,000 students.