Not adding up

UWI officials raise concern about student performance in Mathematics

The Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Eudine Barriteau, has described the performance of students in Mathematics in recent years as disturbing.

Pointing out that students entering UWI “have to sit preliminary Maths examinations in order to gain access”, Barriteau said the learning institution “decided to intervene, offering both leadership and collaboration”.

She has pledged the university’s continued fight “to improve the performance of students across a range of disciplines, especially Mathematics.

“We feel obligated to assist in turning around the unsatisfactory performance of our students in Mathematics,” said Barriteau.

She was addressing the opening of a three-day teacher-training workshop put on by the Caribbean Science Foundation and Caribbean Academy of Sciences at the 3Ws Oval this morning.

“Of all students who took the examination in Mathematics in 2010, 41 per cent gained an acceptable pass of either Grades I, II or III. That percentage fell to 35 in 2011 and declined even further to 33 per cent in 2012. Those performances are disturbing,” the Cave Hill principal said.

She pointed out that students who performed poorly at the primary and secondary levels, experienced “acute challenges at the university level”.

As a result, Barriteau said the university had teamed up with the Ministry of Education and launched the UWITube project in order to “fuse mathematical concepts with online animation and multi-media support to make the teaching of Mathematics more attractive and comprehensible to students”.

“In the past three years, the number of students gaining acceptable passes in Mathematics has begun to climb steadily, from 35 per cent in 2013 to 49 per cent last year and 50 per cent this year. We believe the various interventions are contributing,” she reported.

She said the university, led by the Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology Dr Colin Depradine, had also embarked on a number of workshops for primary school teachers, having “recognized that the challenge with mathematics often begins at the primary school level”.

Barriteau also disclosed that the UWI was “advanced in planning” to host a regional symposium on Mathematics.

During the workshop, which is funded by the US Embassy and Ministry of Education, teachers from the Eastern Caribbean will take part in a number of training and brainstorming sessions over the next three days in an effort to improve their skills in teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics known as the STEM subjects. (MM)

4 Responses to Not adding up

  1. Tony Webster November 24, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Thank you madam Principal, for showing a willingness to grasp this particular nettle. However, the reality is even worse, since most employers will only accept grade 1, or grade. 2 passes at General Proficiency level. Your quoted statistics would then look not just dismal, or worrisome, but horrific!

    The roots of this problem-and the solution- I daresay are also removed from your direct control. It will require root-and – branch efforts going right back to primary schooling, and teacher training, to remove the shame from our performances in English, and maths.

    We have a mountain to climb, madam!

  2. Sue Donym November 24, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Where’s the rest of this story?

    What happens to programme applicants who do not achieve an acceptable pass in maths?
    For instance, is there a summer or pre-enrollment programme that tests if they can come up to mark? Are those students then offered a place in an alternate course of study or do they just fall out of the system? Are any of them placed in other faculties or going to B’dos Community College or Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic?

    Can anyone say whether the struggle is so acute that students are forced to extend programme times because of it. Anything?

    • Bernard Codrington November 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

      This talk about mathematics achievement tests and scores are all very confusing. How can a child after 6 tears in primary school not making a satisfactory showing at CXC level. ? The curriculum at Primary school has been reduced to preparation for Common Entrance exams and still we are failing. In my day the offerings were wider at primary level including music and horticulture. There was little else for me to learn in maths at the secondary level until I reached form 4 at Secondary level. We need to reexamine what we are teaching in the maths curriculum and its relevance to life.

      • Sue Donym November 27, 2015 at 10:12 pm

        The curriculum might be too intense in terms of its latitude. I think we need to focus more on development of reasoning and what needs to be done by rote. We are apparently forcing children to move to the next topic without understanding concepts.

        What you mentioned about other subject areas is interesting because those are things that stimulate interaction and a wider focus and might be part of the reason children appear less well socialised.

        I want to point out something that many people seem to miss. They often say that those who do not do well at Math and English will be the artisans etc. Ever watched a really good carpenter work out material requirements in his head? Some of the best shopkeepers of old did wonders mentally or with pencil and paper that would put youths with calculators to shame. Obviously the key was in grasping the concept and knowing what was important to the calculation. That’s why I believe we’re failing in getting many students to understand concepts


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