The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences – AIMS Ghana, and the Mathematics Department of the University for Development Studies (UDS) – Tamale, collaborated with support from the Henry Luce Foundation, to celebrate the International Day of Mathematics (IDM) on 14th March 2023.
The celebration, themed “Mathematics for Everyone” focused on the core issues of Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity, highlighted in some key activities. Preliminary celebrations on the 13th of March 2023, included teaching & mentorship sessions in four Junior High Schools (JHS) in the area – Savelugu Girls Model JHS, Savelugu M/A JHS, Yoo R/C JHS and UDS Basic School, led by AIMS Ghana alumni as well as donations of science sets to the visited schools. A fireside chat was also organized for over 100 maths-phobia female high school students who converged at the Tamale Girls Senior High School, to encourage and inspire them into realizing that Mathematics is a field they can build a career in, through practice and perseverance.
The climax of the celebration was a forum which took place on the 14th of March 2023, at the UDS Campus – Tamale, bringing together farmer groups, the shea butter women’s association, disabled groups, religious minority groups, teachers, students, academicians, policy and decision-makers, and the general public.
The keynote address at the forum was given by the Vice Dean of the university, Prof. Haruna Issahaku, on behalf of the Vice Chancellor.
Speaking about the IDM celebration, he highlighted the barriers that exist for many individuals when it comes to mathematics education and opportunities, in particular rural dwellers, individuals from low-income backgrounds and those with disabilities.
He mentioned that this lack of diversity has far-reaching consequences, not only for the individuals involved but for the field of mathematics as a whole, as such, it is the responsibility of mathematicians and math enthusiasts to create more inclusive and equitable mathematical communities.
He added, “We must strive to break down the systemic barriers that prevent and represent particular groups from pursuing careers in mathematics.”
The Academic Director for AIMS Ghana, Dr. Rhoda Hawkins also made an address, emphasizing how AIMS was supporting in broadening diversity within mathematics, as students at the Centre are selected from across Africa, and lecturers also visit from various parts of the world. Aside from highlighting the work AIMS does in postgraduate training, research and public engagement in STEM she took the opportunity to throw light on the Master’s in Mathematical Sciences for Teachers (MMST) Program which is a part-time course for teachers at the High School level. She stated that teachers under the program could study whilst also teaching in their schools across the country and get to access modern techniques or ways of teaching to enhance the classroom experience of their students.
Dr. Hawkins also gave a practical demonstration on mathematics using a hand-made paper Tetrahedron, providing a hands-on experience for all participants. She gave a step-by-step procedure on how to create the three-dimensional shape from paper after which participants waved the coloured triangular pyramids to celebrate the tangibility of Mathematics, reiterating the idea that “Math is for Everyone”.
The forum concluded with a session led by Dr. Angela Tabiri and Dr. Mustafa Sulemana on the perceptions and experiences arising from mathematics education in Ghanaian schools, where students shared their challenges with the study of the subject. There were calls for improvement in training for math teachers in basic schools so that they can provide a firm foundation to students. Teachers were also encouraged to desist from creating tension in the classroom but rather inculcate exciting teaching methods so that students can be relaxed enough to focus on mathematics and develop interest the subject. Additionally, stakeholders in education were called upon to provide relevant and adequate learning resources to help the teachers ensure that mathematics can become activity oriented instead of the abstract perspective it is usually given. In attendance at the forum, were representatives from the Regional and Metropolitan Directorate of Education – Tamale, as well as senior faculty members of UDS.
Over the last 3 years, AIMS Ghana (a UNESCO Category 2 Centre of Excellence) through various activities has been leading Ghana in commemorating the International Day of Mathematics (IDM). The celebration which was instituted by UNESCO at the 40th session of the General Conference on November 26, 2019, is celebrated annually on the 14th of March. Also known as ‘PI Day’, it serves as an opportunity to explain and celebrate the essential roles played by mathematics, and mathematics education, with regards to making breakthroughs in science and technology, improving the quality of life, empowering women and girls, and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals under the 2030 Agenda (SDG1-17) of the United Nations.
AIMS will continue to create awareness through the IDM in the month of March by releasing a series of videos engaging the general public to find out how they apply mathematics in everyday life.