Mathematics is not hard

By Hellen Namawejje, :: 06-03-2012

Being the child of a teacher (mother) has really imparted a lot in my life. Although my friends and teachers plus other mentors have done a lot to make me what I am today but I give a credit to my mum.


I  realise that everyone has the potential to do extra-ordinary things only that most lack guidance and support from the right people. My dream of becoming a mathematician came when I was in Senior Two. We had a teacher who would not strain with students because he targeted students whom you may call first-class material.
I was an average student but someone who could stand by her grades although they were average. My teacher (Mr. Peter Ndungu) used to laugh at me because my effort always returned poor results.
Mummy used to encourage me so much telling me, “Hellen, you can also do it if others can. There is nothing special they have that stops you from being like them.” Amidst her encouragement, I still got tired but my improvement needed a lot of backup often.
Because of the love I had for math, I kept struggling and I managed to pass it at O-level and opted for it at A-level. The Bible says, “I know the plans I have for you.” Indeed God has plans for everyone because I managed to join Makerere University to do a Bachelor of Science with Education and I was given mathematics and economics.
People think you have to be a genius or from a special breed to do the rithmetic in maths. Yet from my experience, if you love something, amidst the waves you may encounter, you will always maneuver your way even if it calls sparing happiness for a while.
Mathematics  needs just an extra-encounter which is love for the subject, because you will never escape it as long as you live because it is a practical subject in everything we do. Only that people never take a leaf in what they do to check if they are really applying it.
In my Education class, we were 18 girls doing mathematics and economics and the rest were boys. In second year, you had to decide whether you become a maths or an economics major.  Sixteen girls left and after sometime the other left and I stayed alone.
It was a big challenge for me because time came and I wanted to quit because I could not stand the pressure and logistics of certain concepts. At times I had the lowest grades in  some courseworks and my friends would only tell me, “we told you and you refused to let maths go.”
In life, knowing what you want and how to get it counts most. Everyone can be smart at anything you want to do provided you are ready to go for it because the sky is the limit.
In the storms, fears, anxiety, I pressed on and I managed to graduate in 3 years. I thought that was the end of mathematics, after practising for 18 months, I left for further studies at the University of Dar-es-salaam in Tanzania for a master’s of science in Mathematical Modeling. Because I knew what was required of me to get good results, I was ready from the start until I graduated with a first class and I was the best female student in our course.
Joining UCU early this semester was a blessing to check if the mathematics I had learnt can be used to help others. Surprisingly, my students find a lot of problems when I am teaching even when I think something is obvious. I do not take them for granted because what may seem easy for me is not to them. And it is a challenge for me to see that all of them understand the abstract concepts because they are more than capable.
To those who think, math is hell and a waste of time, please work on your attitude and know that you can do the subject. Any course you will do at the university, will have math and it is amazing that even lawyers do it only that, they sometimes just argue to make wrong things look right. God bless you all. See you on top.

The writer is a lecturer in Faculty of Science and Technology

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