# Did Pi make you a hustler?

Many Kenyans blame mathematics for their fate in life. They believe that if they performed better in that subject, they would have gotten better careers in life.

They cite the cool jobs that need maths; engineering, medicine, finance or accounting. Mathematics, they believe made them hustlers.

Having taught maths in high school and not as an untrained teacher, I have kept reflecting on why this subject was seen as a form of intellectual terrorism.

Why did students dislike it, and still dislike it?  Yet, it is so applicable later in life, not just in careers but in everyday life. And it’s both a science and an art.

There are several possible reasons. One, the subject is made so mysterious. A good example; why is pi 22/7 or 3.14? Why was x forever used for unknown? On campus, I have noted once the unknown is given as k or z, students turn it into x first! It gets more fascinating.

I recently asked a number of Kenyans why pi is 22/7 or 3.14. They include a recent high school graduate, a bachelor‘s degree holder, a master’s degree and two PhD holders - one a professor. Their answer was the same; it was given! Both PhD holders teach quantitative courses. I will not disclose their names for security reasons.

Let me show you how we deduced pi in class five. Yes-five. My teacher, Mr Njoroge, we still call him Mr Teacher asked us to bring circular objects, big or small. We tied a string around the circular object and then used a ruler to get the circumference. We then divided circumference by diameter. There was pi! You can imagine the excitement when using different circular objects we got the same answer, pi or 3.14 or 22/7. Ask your primary school child to do that. Let me give you another example.

Did your lecturer remind you that differentiation and regression are getting the gradient, just like that gradient in y=mx +c? Was that form one or two maths?

The other reason we dislike maths is the lack of real-life applications; we all know how to count the money even if illiterate. If maths teachers demonstrated the application of maths in both local and global contexts, we could have loved the subject more. And go beyond x! How do we apply maths in agriculture, in finance, in logistics, in our homes and other places - and to make money? Everyone understands the language of money!

The subject is also over-taught. Maths has the highest number of lessons per week. Familiarity breeds contempt. Solution? Let’s have maths for everyone with fewer lessons and maths for the gifted who can take more lessons because they enjoy it. Raise your hand if you slept through maths lessons.  The language is another problem. After a long maths lesson, the teacher rewards you with “solve the following problems.” Which other subject had problems? Maths should borrow from Disneyland!

More technology should get into maths; use computers to simulate and solve real-life problems. Keep off traditional pen and paper.  What of more interaction among primary, secondary day and university teachers? That would help them see the missing links in the subject.

What else made you hate maths? Do not mention the teacher you nicknamed. Let me disappoint you; CBC (competence-based curriculum) and AI will not kill maths, learn to live with it.

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