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Mathematics for everyone

Today is International Day of Mathematics, which is a global celebration observed every March 14. The IDM is led and organised by the International Mathematical…

Today is International Day of Mathematics, which is a global celebration observed every March 14. The IDM is led and organised by the International Mathematical Union, and many countries and organisations around the world take part. 

This year’s IDM theme is ‘Mathematics for Everyone’ proposed by Marco Zarco Rotairo of the Trece Martires City National High School at Indang, Cavite, Philippines.  

Mathematics has been viewed by many as a difficult subject. A person may belong to the lowest or the highest class of society, yet he/she utilises knowledge of mathematics in one form or another. Mathematics is the common heritage of mankind; it is not the exclusive property of any particular person, nation, race or country. What we possess in the form of mathematical knowledge today is the fruit of the combined efforts of all human beings.  

A common man can get by sometimes ‘very’ well without learning how to read and write, but he can never pull through without learning how to count and calculate. Any person ignorant of mathematics will be at the mercy of others and will 

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When mathematics makes its contribution to the advancement of science and technology, society reaps huge benefits. The history of mathematics presents a very good picture of the overall development of our civilization. So it is no exaggeration to say the history of mathematics is the history of civilization.  

It has been found that the Babylonians possessed the knowledge of multiplication and division of numbers, taking square and square root of numbers, finding areas of certain geometrical figures. The Egyptian civilization is also due to mathematics.

Aristotle said mathematics had its birth in Egypt, because there the priestly class had the leisure necessary for its study. They built pyramids at a very early period. The basis of both the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations was agriculture. In an agricultural economy, a reliable calendar, accurate with respect to both astronomy and arithmetic, is a necessity.

When we think of Greek civilization, we remember the great mathematicians like, Pythagoras, Plato, Archimedes etc. When we go through history, we can see also the contributions from the Romans, Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, and Indians to mathematics. 

The IDM theme for this year holds a lot of significance for our nation, especially now, as we transition into a new government. Nigerians are looking forward with hope and high expectations that the new government will bring succour to the numerous challenges facing the nation. If the government is going to live up to the hype, then it needs to do its math very well.  

Since independence, Nigeria has had various types of government. The independence of Nigeria was greeted with a lot of cheer by the people who thought that their lives would be better. In contrast, in every form of regime and administration, the citizens often had feeling of disappointment and lack of confidence even before the end of their tenure. This is because most rulers were not able to deliver on their promises.

The social life of the Nigerian people is reflected in the leadership. Life of self-centeredness, affluence and ostentatious display that is paramount among the leaders and the governed. The question is how do we bring sanity and change things for good? Is it possible to have a new Nigeria, the Nigeria of our dream? Truly a new Nigeria is possible only if we work for it.  

Oftentimes, people blame the governments for lack of will to deliver on their mandate. This may be partly true. The inability of previous governments to deliver on the gains of democracy can also be traceable to the lack of proper articulation and calculation of their agenda in relation to time – that is, the mathematics of time. 

Time delay and wastage is one major problem of our governance system, through the administrative bureaucracy. There is urgent need to introduce a system which allows for speedy administrative process as this will help in delivering the good agenda of the government.

Next to the aforementioned point is, the mathematics of value. There is a need for whoever takes the position of leadership in any capacity of governance to uphold great value. This seems to be missing among most citizens who have risen to the position of leadership.

Imbibing the above points is a sure a path of moving the nation to greatness. The purpose of mathematics is not limited to understanding mathematical concepts, among other things includes having an attitude which appreciates the usefulness of mathematics in life, an attitude of curiosity, attention and confidence in problem solving.

More so, there are noble values contained in mathematics that can be developed through the study of mathematics. They are value of logic in thinking; value of careful, thorough thinking and decision making; value of discipline to obey the rules and agreement made; value of tenacity and patience in facing the problems; values of self-reliance in attitude; values of honesty in acting; value of appreciation of time and value of democratic norms. 

Additionally, mathematical illiteracy in the masses is a formidable barrier in the way of a country’s progress on all fronts. The study of mathematics does not only equip the citizenry with the competencies necessary to participate in the workforce of an increasingly technological society, but imbibes in the individual values like honesty, truthfulness, open-mindedness, objectivity, self-confidence, self-reliance, patience, will-power, and orderly habits like concentration and hard work.

These values equip one with a pair of cognitive and affective lenses which shape and modify one’s way of perceiving and interpreting the world and guide one’s choice of course of action. It also helps the individual to lead a well-disciplined life, which in turn helps him/her to be a good citizen.   

Learning mathematics as a subject provides students with the basic skills, credentials, confidence and even the inclination to function as citizens on a personal and societal level. This is because mathematics is a tool or framework for students to engage in critical understanding and acting in society. It is the acquisition of the art of proper thinking and effective reasoning. It is needed for building the quantitative literacy needed to navigate and participate in civic life.

There is therefore a need for students to understand the role of math in structuring society and its potential to empower them to challenge these structures as citizens. 

It is important that students acquire the skill to read and write the world with mathematics. Reading the world with mathematics involves using mathematics as a tool to critically analyse and understand how society works so as to understand the unequal power relations behind policies and institutions and how they shape people’s lives.  

Finally, functional literacy positions mathematics as a means to participate socially, economically and politically in society.  


Ibeazor is a math teacher (PTA) at GSS Wuse Zone3, Abuja: [email protected] 


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