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!!