Nyumbani Village was founded by Father Angelo and Sister Mary Owens in 1992 to serve orphans and elders who have been left behind by the “lost generation” resulting from the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It was opened in 2006 and is a place where orphans enjoy living under the watchful eyes of grandparents. The village is located in Kitui county and its about a three-hour-drive from Nairobi.
We began the journey on Wednesday at 9pm and it took us around 13 hours from Maseno to get to the village. We met the deputy head teacher, Anton, Hose, Jane and other members of staff and non-staff. Anton and Hose took us around the village. Anton is the head of home care department while Hose is a solar system specialist who teaches at the polytechnic. The village has three schools, a medical clinic, worship centre and other community buildings. After touring the village we went back to guest house where we prepared for the Friday sessions and thereafter had a rest. Among the sessions were game 21, handshake problem, Josephus problem, counting squares, puzzles and more others. We wanted students to realize that Mathematics is all about simplification, being systematic, forming patterns, identifying strategies and generalizing. The highest number of students who came for the sessions were 28. Each session was 1 hour long. Santiago and Zack led most of the sessions while Patrick and I went around helping students understand. Patrick led the session on counting squares while I led the session on josephus problem. I really enjoyed interacting with students. I loved seeing very active students, happy to learn, the likes of Meshack, Dennis, Richard, Diana among others. They really inspired me. As we ended up our sessions on Saturday, they wanted to know when we were going to meet again. Santiago and Zack having more experienced helped me in pointing out areas to improve on. We left the village on Sunday morning hoping to have impacted on the students. On our way back we got stuck for over an hour a long dirt road which had been turned into slippery mud by the rains. We finally got out of the mud by creating a path using stones and lifting one of the back wheels and placing stones below it. Overall, despite the challenges we encountered, I was quite pleased with my visit. I liked everything, the sessions, food, people we met and the environment. The most important thing I learned is that education isn't just one way!! Everyone has something to give if we step back, take time to listen, observe, and draw it out!!
I had the incredible opportunity to visit Joyland High School in Kisumu, Kenya. This was something I was really looking out to. We wanted to follow up on the progress of their school. Last year a number of their students came for the annual Maseno Math’s camp with one of their maths teacher.
Thursday 29th October was the day to visit the school. I woke up early enough and prepared myself. Patrick and I, who is also an intern at African Maths Initiative(AMI) took a vehicle to the School. This cost us ksh 150 each to get to the School. We signed in the visitor’s pass as we entered the school gate. We walked directly to the office where we met the School head teacher and introduced ourselves to him and were warmly welcomed. The math teacher then took us to the computer lab where we met the computer science teacher. On our way to the lab, we saw an interesting notice from Joseph one of the students who came for last year Maths camp reminding other students to apply for the upcoming Maths camp and were really impressed. The School had passionate teachers. They had around 15 computers in the lab. I saw random students moving around every now and then. The School environment reminded me what it was like to be me five years ago. It was the land I grew up on. It still blows my mind that I have been out of high school for that long. I did not belong there anymore.
We had pretty meaningful conversation with the computer science teacher. Zack who is our C.E.O. at AMI took the students through mathematical thinking while Bonface a Director from World Possible Kenya introduced the teachers and students to new learning resources. Patrick and I finally introduced ourselves to students and shared our activities at AMI. It was great to see how enthusiastic the students were. It was quite a full day and I had a lot of catching up to do. Overall, I was quite pleased with my visit. We sincerely thanked the school for the warm welcome before we left.
Latex is markup language used to typeset a document. Learning it , was purely an adventure. My introduction to it was more or less of learning by doing. The need to create a new Mathematics course and lectures online for Kenyan based Curriculum was enough reason why I had to learn latex . I needed to upload lectures in latex format, once I was granted administrative rights. After coming up with a number of Formula and Variation problems, the next task was to write some of them using latex, a language I haven’t used before. The first thing I did was to install the app. The installation steps were very simple just like any other app. I then explored the app, trying to understand how it works. Since I didn't know many things, I didn't change any default settings. I began by writing simple document which on running display a number of errors I did not understand. I tried changing commands and playing with a number of things here and there. Step by step, I learn to create documents, first and simple. I encountered many latex errors and dealt with them to get the document compile. Large chunk of my latex knowledge has been acquired while tracking down and eliminating warnings. Challenges kept me motivated. One can really do some amazing work if he digs enough into Latex.
Many students experience a great stress and frustration when presented with mathematical problems which have negative personal and social consequences. As we all know learning has everything to do with attitude. You cant make anyone learn!! The question is what is hard when it comes to Mathematics? When will students stop failing Mathematics? I and the team at African Maths Initiative have been working hard to create a culture in which challenging learning is the norm, and mathematical understanding and positive attitude toward mathematics are the goals. Personally I would love to seeing progression through the grade levels. This week I have been writing a number of online mathematical problems for Kenyan based curriculum to help students assess themselves on several topics. What I do is to select a topic, identify the objectives and come up with the problems which meets its objectives. Once I have the problems, I reorder them beginning from the easiest to the hardest. Finally I begin working for solutions to provide multiple choices and detailed explanation for every correct answer. The reason for giving an explanation is that it will help students understand how to solve a problem, identify the strategies used and organize their thoughts. This has not been an easy task at all but, the spirit to instill love for mathematics with beautiful grades has always been the driving force. If students solve these individually, in class or in groups, wouldn't these experience boost their confidence level? I want them to be confident. This will foster enthusiasm and support Mathematical learning at any particular time which in turn will build a future for Mathematics.
My first computer experience was with windows. I had never used terminal in Ubuntu before. The idea of typing in commands instead of pointing and clicking on buttons with a mouse seemed archaic and scary. After installing Ubuntu version 15.04 on my system which was to be used to run tutor web server, I was not able to connect to the internet using either any WIFI networks around or a modem. I tried playing around with network settings but all was in vain. I asked a number of friends for help who I thought were conversant with network stuff but they were not able to do it. Something came into my mind later and I decided to find the mac address of the system by typing in ifconfig in the Ubuntu terminal. I then copied the mac address and the name to my phone and set the connection using my android phone. Guess what? The connection was successful and I was very happy about that.
I then opened the Mozilla browser and there I began my research on terminals. I met a number of commands which include file and directory, save and typing, change text commands among many others. I tried to run those commands on the terminal of which a number of them worked well. I went ahead and tried to use apt-get command in installation by typing in apt-get install vlc-plugin-jack but it was not successful for it could not locate the package. I tried other installation commands but this time round using sudo which allows me to perform commands as a super user but most of them were not successful. Still figuring what I could do, I noticed that there is a software Centre icon which has large amount of softwares. I did update it and after that I restarted my laptop.
From there I was able to install a few applications mainly for network connection and file sharing. Though I still have some issues with installation, I do believe that the more I use it, the more comfortable I'll become. It’s handy to know that another way isn’t worse, it’s just different.
I have spent many hours over past years in different math classes. When we talk about Math, equations and formulas will pop into our minds, scaring many. Even before we had description of the math course outline, many of my classmates had many inquiries about it. Is it the name? Is it the concept of the strict pointy-nosed teacher at Sing'ore Girls? Is it the outrageous storyline "Maths is hard"? Or are they desperate about approach to math? Many of them were already prepared on how to fail. Poor or no preparation at all, fear, bad attitude towards math and hatred towards math's teachers making math classes very boring. More than 70% of the whole school were getting extremely shocking grades!! Maths become a mental abuse to them. Why Math?? Where do we see Math?? Calenders? Clocks? Computers? Physics?....Maths is every where and they could not run away from it. Neither could teach them how to add love or minus hate.
During my undergraduate I came to learn that making math engaging is all a matter of bringing as much clarity to the concepts and procedures as possible. Integrating technology keeps the class fresh, because there are just so many tools available to engage, enrich, and inspire students . Lots of this has to do with understanding. African Maths initiative is making life colorful and fun through use of applications and programs and thus changing students attitudes. Card games, statistics, physical activities, programming, modeling are just some of the themes. Card games for instance help students to identify similarities and differences and then categorize them, which are all higher-order thinking skills. It also brings in an element of fun, discussion and surprise to practicing problems.
We have been working hard at AMI to make maths concepts relevant to their lives and hoping that the underlying skills are what will stick with them: finding errors and fixing them, problem solving, thinking outside the box, using discussion to help others understand, asking and answering good questions, organizing information, identifying patterns, making predictions, teaching others, and taking responsibility for their own learning. I believe that this would make Math more important than what people might think!!
There is a very big difference between studying for a certificate and getting the experience. And I am glad that you recognize the difference. As far as books, I have used Cisco books but it is really dry reading. I have always opted to do more than just studying and memorizing things from books but networking is a more difficult area to get experience and practice in. Working for African Maths Initiative has given me a chance to learn a lot, practice and build my network skills. They have given me a great way to experiment with networking concepts and gear which is good for my career development. I am happy I can now create and set up a server, connect it to several devices, control devices on a network, establish internet connection and share some data across a network. The fact that I can Share some data and control all the devices on the network from one point really excites me. It was also interesting to learn that routers also protect information from security threats and can even decide which computers to give priority to over others. I am investing in myself day by day and really got to enjoy technology. Thanks to African Maths Initiative, my stepping stone!!
I have been working at AMI for the past few months. The experience has been quite exciting.
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