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NMC raises alarm over death of pure maths in Nigerian universities

By Emeka Nze Abuja

The National Mathematical Centre has raised alarm over the gradual death of pure mathematics in the Nigeria University System.

Onah made this call in Abuja at the two-day stakeholders meeting of Professors and Heads of Departments of mathematics and mathematical sciences and postgraduate students from Nigerian universities

The National Mathematics Centre director said Pure Mathematics is the foundation upon which Applied Mathematics and other Mathematical Sciences are built and called for urgent and drastic to be taken to resuscitate the learning.

"I wish to use this opportunity to bring to the notice of the powers that be and this gathering of eminent stake holders that the learning of Pure Mathematics (the foundation upon which Applied Mathematics and other Mathematical Sciences are built) is dying in the Nigerian University System. Something urgent and drastic must be done and urgently too."

To reverse the ugly trend, Prof Onah proposed "the introduction of six (6) months internship programme for undergraduate students in pure Mathematics courses (e.g., Algebra (Linear and Abstract), Number Theory, Topology, Real Analysis, Combinatorics, Functional Analysis, Theory of ODE and PDE’s). This should be taken as requirement for award of B.Sc. Mathematics degree.

"It could be done at the end of 200 and 300 levels (3 months apiece during long vacations). Implementation could be worked out by NMC in collaboration with NUC and the Universities. TETFund must also agree to be part of funding agency. The National Council for Education has already adopted the proposal for implementation some years back."

Prof Onah further said: "Postgraduate degrees in Pure Mathematics and Theoretical Physics are being proposed to be offered at the NMC. This requires amending the NMC Act which is already in the works.

He noted that "In order to generate interest and enthusiasm in learning Mathematics at the secondary level of Education, NMC proposed introduction of Mental Arithmetic as part of curriculum at the junior secondary school level of Education in Nigeria.

"This also has been adopted by NCE for implementation. The curriculum has been developed by NMC and is awaiting review and approval by NERDC.

"The Honourable Minister of Education is kindly requested to direct the Executive Secretary of NUC to urge the Vice chancellors to ensure that such beneficiaries are given the counter-part funds as of necessity. NMC wishes to use this platform to assist the training of young academics particularly the graduate assistants in the universities.

"As of now, the Centre has been reaching out to the universities through the departments to staff and sometimes directly to staff. This stakeholders meeting may wish to consider a more sustainable process of reaching out to the desired members of staff."

Prof Onah also proposed Mathematics and Mathematical sciences Olympiads as a measure to resuscitate pure mathematics in schools. "It is an established fact that Olympiad competitions are veritable tools for identifying young talents. It is also observed that mathematical societies of many countries are the ones that spearhead and deepen the knowledge of mathematical sciences Olympiads.

"Therefore, it is hereby proposed that National Mathematical Society (NMS) should organise National Mathematical Olympiad at the university level of education, during its annual conference. The current Olympiad competitions (at the primary and secondary levels of education) usually organised by the Mathematical Association of Nigeria (MAN) should be reorganised and refocused," Onah said.

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