The need for maths and science teachers – and students

This is an ode to the two subjects at school that I most disliked and (by and large)the people who taught them then, and the need to reinforce their numbers now.

I hated maths at school. I went from being a student who one maths professor was so keen to take back to the United States in early 1988, that he asked for my parents permission to being one absolutely hated mathematics to the point that anything test or exam result with greater than 50% was a great victory. The cause – it should be noted – was not the professor so much as a shocking mathematics teacher who undid my knowledge, which would also cause me to go home from school each day really angry. Twenty something years later, I would like to pass School Certificate mathematics, just to say I did it, but I do not really see any long term gain. Whilst not having mathematical understanding in terms of doing equations, I understand the general theory behind an equation and can explain it. But

How science and mathematics is taught in schools may have an impact on the numbers of students doing both past the years where is compulsory subject matter. It could be a content matter as much as an assessment regime issue – when I was doing mathematics at high school I thought there should have been more emphasis on internal assessment, instead of a 100% exam at the end of the year. As for the content, I generally had no problems with it and the methods seemed suitable – it was my hatred of the subject that left me near the bottom of the class in assessment performance.

I was not a terribly big fan of science either, though that might have been because it often fell on last period of a Friday afternoon when students minds had switched off and were thinking about the weekend. Consequently there were a few disruptive types in class who would put a spanner in the works. It is not that my teachers were bad – on the whole they were quite good and clearly dedicated to their discipline. My school was churning out some top notch students who were competing in international competitions such as the International Physics(?) Olympiad overseas and were getting matching impressive results.

My biggest regret looking back at high school is that just half an hour more study done each night would probably have seen me pass just about everything the first time. That is something I accept responsibility for.

However unfortunately there seems to have been a war on science waged by successive Governments in New Zealand with the result that scientific endeavour is foreign to a lot of students who might have otherwise gone to university and done a Bachelor of Science. And of science and maths teachers, we need more of both.


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