My friend Brenda Cherustar says that many of us hate mathematics but love counting money. This piece is written with deep respect for all teachers especially one of mathematics who is also a great orator and an ardent reader of this column, Robert Osichiro.
I don’t know if I am the only one who fell out of love with mathematics in high school. It was partly because of the nature of the lessons.
Okay there were issues of attitude, the belief that mathematics is generally difficult, which made those of us who hated the subject practice less and, therefore, score poorly. But there was a small percentage of this performance that was inevitably caused by the teachers as follows:
Teachers were never late for lessons
No sooner would the bell go than the mathematics teacher would appear at the door like an apparition.
Worse was the fact that they usually found us with unfinished assignments, trying to copy from desk mates and wondering how such a long formula would be beneficial to our lives in the future.
We had a teacher in our school who would combine PE lessons and essentially ‘borrow’ lessons from any other teacher who was willing to donate. We would end up learning mathematics more than five times a day.
They wouldn’t forgive a misgiving
Before corporal punishment was banned, mathematics teachers had a field day issuing punishments. These would range from the normal caning to cleaning the washrooms to uprooting a tree stump, depending on the nature of the mistake.
Once when a love letter was found inside my mathematics graph book, I was made to reply to it on a graph paper with my latest mark in mathematics tucked inside the letter! Wonder why am still single all these years later? A sadistic member of staff ruined my love life just like that.
Lessons lacked humour
A double mathematics lesson of 80 minutes would end without anyone smiling, leave alone laughing. Sometimes the concepts seemed a bit abstract.
The only time some humour was infused in a mathematics lesson happened at my expense. Visiting female students had been invited to our class for a bench-marking session.
Cheeky as I was, I offered to handle a simultaneous equation on the board, a seemingly easy sum ended up in an untidy pile. What followed is that one of the visiting students promptly marched to the board and worked out the sum correctly. Talk of being embarrassed.
Intimidating way of returning answer scripts
Was it difficult for teachers of mathematics to just return answer scripts without reading out the names and marks aloud? Some went ahead to arrange those scripts in descending order.
The more your name wasn’t called, the poorer your mark was. This created a sense of inability among the weaker students. Anyway, I appreciate teachers for making us all what we are. Teaching is a noble calling.