In most Kenyan Secondary schools, students are allowed to drop several subjects at the end of the first two years and focus on the remaining ones for the rest of the secondary curriculum. Physics is one of the subject that many students cannot wait to drop and do away with. I am sure that if they had the option to drop mathematics, most would not hesitate to do so. If you look at the majority of the students who develop a phobia towards mathematics and maths-heavy subjects, you will realize that they are girls.
In almost all KCSE (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) and KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) exams, boys lead in subjects such as mathematics and physics. This is a scenario that is not only present in Kenya, but is replicated in most countries of the world. There is this notion that girls and mathematics should not go hand in hand. What this has done is set girls on a tragic road that will see them limit their potential in drastic ways.
Is it meant to be so?
But what if that is what the situation is supposed to be like? Maybe male genes are such that boys have a better understanding of mathematical concepts than girls. Scientific research has proved otherwise again and again. When provided with the same ideal conditions (Mental, emotional and physical) girls are just as good in mathematics and related subjects as their male counterparts.
Who or what is to blame?
In the Kenyan situation, there are many factors that have contributed to this mentality. Issues like poor teaching methods, mother tongue influence, peer pressure and the society have all played their role in instilling fear in our girls.
What to do as a parent
To tackle the problem, parent need to play their role in raising their daughters to be who they were meant to be. Starting from a very young age, parents should teach their daughters that mathematics is not the monster it is made out to be and that they can excel in it. Below are a few tips parents can use.
- Create a can-do mentality from a young age. Even if she fails a few sums, do not discourage her.
- Determine if her area of excellence is mathematics. Different girls are naturally good at different subjects. Knowing your child’s math’s skill level will help you know how to handle her.
- Who are her teachers? Be careful of whomever is teaching your child. It is all to familiar to hear adults saying that they hated mathematics because of a certain teacher. If the teacher is not good enough it is better if you find another school or even do some home schooling.
- Hire a private tutor to boost school learning.
- Learn with her. If you are good in mathematics, help out with the home work. Even if you are not as good, the image of you struggling alongside your daughter will make a huge positive difference on her. She may even be encouraged to become better than you.
- Shield your daughter from negative influence. Identify those friends and relatives who are likely to negatively influence your daughter in terms of mathematical potential and keep them at bay.
- Do not give up. This is the most important aspect of the whole process. Even if she continuously performs poorly, keep on encouraging her. There are numerous experiences, mine included, where parents and teachers had all but given up on a student just a year or a few months to the national exam only for tables to be turned.
Having both parents (if possible) involved in the effort to create a positive mental, emotional and physical environment for their daughter can make all the difference.