Saturday, December 4, 2010

GOOD MATHEMATICIANS TURN OUT TO BE LEADERS

In a past blog, I made a remark on the qualities I observed in high school students who are proficient in maths. Hidden qualities in maths high school students. In this blog, after a chat with a friend online about the benefits of mathematics to Nigerian society: “Maths is only for the pleasure of solving abstract problems,” he argued, I was tempted to write that aside from solving problems, mathematicians who delve into other fields of human endeavor, turn out to be leaders in those fields.

I do not know why it is so, that great men like Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Galileo and other notable men in the field of inventions learnt maths first before mastering their chosen fields of physics, biology and etcetera, but I have noticed that it is so.
I sometimes think that it is because maths is as old as the world itself. The Babylonians were good in maths, and I read somewhere, in a textbook while in the university, (about ten years ago), that mathematics started, modern mathematics, from Babylon. Maths, especially algebra, was a prerequisite in ancient Greece as well as Rome.
If you take a stroll along Otigba Street, Ikeja, in the hot afternoon, you will see one of the high achievements of maths and mathematical innovation on display: the computer and mobile phones. The computer industry, that started from the abacus machine, is the reason behind why men go to space today and why we can surf the Internet. It is also the reason why we can communicate today, your reading my blog on a screen, without reading it on paper and your ability to do business in any country or clime irrespective of the currency.
And talking about money, every measurement involves maths, be it in the field of social science, pure sciences or arts, you must have a knowledge of maths to do any measurement at all. I wish someone would tell me what system the Igbo were using before the decimal system came but I believe that the limitations of tallying that they must have relied upon would not involve their counting nothing much more than hundred or a so tubers of yam. Today, they can count thousands of goods on containers coming from asia; no pun intended, I am igbo myself.
So why is maths education looked down upon in this country? I really can’t answer that question. If no one thinks it’s a social problem, I think it is. We’ll never get to develop scientifically if we do not emphasis maths education in this country. By the way, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, of which I am a graduate, is a good example of the denigration of maths and mathematics education. People used to feel sorry for people in the maths and statistics department that they do not have much options in the job market. I do not think so now; but I wonder why that feeling was well imbibed in youths at that time? I wish we could invest more in maths and maths literacy, just the like that the makers of cowbell milk in Nigeria, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, are doing, sponsoring maths competition and employing them in the banking industry. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the company website on the web. It would be a helluva surprise the day I’d see a job advert that states maths is required for employment in the banking industry.

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