University enhances mathematics education in Jamaica

Plymouth University is helping to improve the standard of mathematics education in Jamaica thanks to an innovative project linked to schools and universities in the country.

Academics from the University’s Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching (CIMT) have been working for several years on initiatives to enhance numeracy in the Caribbean nation.

And they have recently completed a collaborative pilot project to enhance the skills of teachers from four primary schools in deprived areas of the nation’s capital, Kingston, as a means of overcoming student underachievement.

Around 25 teachers were provided with online training in a range of areas, including problem solving and content remediation, with the majority achieving a distinction in their end of study tests.

They were recently presented with certificates to mark their achievements at a ceremony attended by Jamaica’s Minister for Education, Senator Ruel Reid.

Professor David Burghes, Director of the Centre of Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at Plymouth University, said:

“Jamaica has historically had high rates of unemployment among young people as companies say they do not have sufficient skills in literacy and numeracy. The government has been looking to find ways to address this, and over the years we have created a range of resources to educate young people and teachers. This pilot project is an example of that, and upskilling these teachers will enable them to better respond to the needs of their learners.”

The CIMT has been working in conjunction with government agencies to provide e-learning mathematics courses in Jamaica for almost a decade.

This latest project was led by the Caribbean Centre of Excellence in Mathematics Teaching (CCEMaT), a research institute formed in 2014 at Mico University College in collaboration with Plymouth’s CIMT.

The CCEMaT’s mandate is to conduct research and training designed to improve the quality of mathematics education in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

It oversees a range of research and outreach activities, with a specific focus on early childhood, primary and secondary levels.

Professor Neville Ying, the Pro-Chancellor of Mico, said:

“Effective teaching must start with the mindset that every child can learn mathematics, and the passion and the ability of the teacher to pass on knowledge to the student is critical. Passion dismisses fear and replaces it with self-confidence and excitement, which facilitates the learning of mathematics.”

Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid added:

“Out of the 1784 teachers teaching mathematics in high schools, only about 230 have a full mathematics degree so that is where we are coming from,” he said. “If we are asked to deliver in the subject areas, every single teacher must have the highest level of training and certification and must be competent, that must be the policy we are driving forward.”