Why Should and How Can Mathematics Be for Everyone

In this article, Mr Damas and Mr David commemorate the International Day of  Mathematics by highlighting the importance of Mathematics.  They emphasise the importance of mathematical literacy and why math education should become more accessible.

Illustration by Liani Malherbe

Mathematics is often seen as a subject reserved for a select few, with its complex formulas and equations that can intimidate even the most studious students. However, the truth is that mathematics is for everyone, and it is much more than just a subject we study in school. It is a language that helps us understand the world around us, from the smallest atoms to the largest galaxies.

On March 14th, we celebrate the International Day of Mathematics (IDM), also known as Pi Day, to recognize the importance of mathematics in our lives. Pi is a mathematical constant that represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, and the first three digits of pi are 3.14. It is an irrational number with infinite decimal places, and it has fascinated mathematicians for centuries.

Why should Mathematics be for Everyone?

Mathematics is not just about numbers and equations; it is about problem-solving, logical thinking, and creativity. Mathematics is the foundation of science and technology, and it is through the power of mathematics that we can develop solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. It plays a role in solving global challenges such as climate change, poverty, and disease. Mathematics can also be a source of creativity and inspiration. The beauty of mathematical patterns, symmetries, and structures can be seen in art, architecture, and music. Mathematical models and simulations can be used to explore complex phenomena and develop new technologies.

Mathematical literacy is becoming increasingly important in today’s world. With the rise of technology and automation, many jobs that were once reserved for manual labor are now being replaced by machines. This means that workers must have a strong understanding of mathematics and computer science to remain competitive in the job market. Promoting mathematical literacy can also help to address social and economic inequalities. Therefore, by providing them with a strong foundation in mathematics, we can help to level the playing field and ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Mathematics is a fascinating subject in its own right. It is a never-ending source of wonder and beauty, with intricate patterns, elegant equations, and mind-boggling concepts. Mathematics is a language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers, and it has the power to connect people across the world.

Illustration by Liani Malherbe

 

How can Mathematics be for Everyone?

Everyone can access mathematics education by providing mentorship, scholarships, and opportunities to individuals from underrepresented groups. Historically, mathematics education has been dominated by certain groups, resulting in a lack of diversity and inclusivity in the field. Promoting diversity and inclusivity can help individuals from diverse backgrounds feel welcomed and valued in the mathematics community.

In recent years, there has been a growing emphasis on promoting diversity and inclusion in mathematics. The IDM provides an opportunity to address the underrepresentation of women, minorities, and people with disabilities in mathematics and to encourage their participation in the field. There are also efforts to make mathematics more accessible to people with visual impairments through tactile diagrams and audio descriptions. These initiatives aim to ensure that everyone can benefit from the beauty and usefulness of mathematics.

One of the most effective ways to make mathematics accessible is by emphasizing its relevance to everyday life. Many people struggle with mathematics because they don’t see its practical applications. By showing how mathematical concepts are relevant to everyday situations, individuals can develop an appreciation for the subject and see how it can be useful in their daily lives. By engaging with mathematics in a fun and interactive way, we can encourage more people to explore the significance of this fascinating subject. Whether you are a student, a professional, or simply someone curious about the world around you, Pi Day is an opportunity to celebrate the wonder and beauty of mathematics.

In many countries, mathematics is still perceived as a difficult and unapproachable subject, which leads to a lack of interest in the subject. This attitude towards mathematics needs to change, and this can only happen if we make mathematics more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. Traditional mathematics education methods can be dull and unengaging. By incorporating fun and interactive learning methods such as games, puzzles, and simulations, individuals can learn mathematics in an exciting and enjoyable way. These methods can also help individuals develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and creativity.

Individuals have different learning styles, and a one-size-fits-all approach to mathematics education may not be effective.  Personalized instruction and tutoring can help individuals understand mathematical concepts at their pace and in a way that works for them. Mathematics is a subject that is closely intertwined with other fields, such as science, engineering, and finance. Encouraging interdisciplinary learning can help individuals see the connections between mathematics and other fields and develop an appreciation for how mathematical concepts are used in these fields.

Mathematics should also be made accessible to people outside of the classroom. There are many initiatives that are already underway to make mathematics more accessible. For example, there are online resources and apps that make learning mathematics fun and engaging. There are also organizations that promote mathematics education and provide opportunities for people to engage with mathematics outside of the classroom.

The International Day of Mathematics is an important event that highlights the relevance and importance of mathematics in our daily lives. This year’s theme, “Mathematics for Everyone,” emphasizes the idea that mathematics is not just for mathematicians but is a fundamental tool for everyone to understand and use.

Mathematics provides a framework for understanding the world around us, and its practical applications can be seen in various fields. Mathematics education can be made more accessible to everyone through various strategies such as emphasizing relevance to everyday life, using interactive and fun learning methods, offering personalized instruction, promoting diversity and inclusivity, and encouraging interdisciplinary learning. By making mathematics education more accessible, individuals can develop an appreciation for the subject, pursue careers in related fields, and contribute to the development of society. Celebrating IDM is an opportunity to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in the beauty and usefulness of mathematics and to promote diversity and inclusion in the field.

Damas K. Mgani

PhD student (Third year) Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch

Tobi David Olabiyi

MSc student (Second year) Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch.

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