Students in St. Lucia have been performing poorly in mathematics for a number of years. Although some strategies have been introduced to improve student success in mathematics, the results have not been stellar, and our students’ performance continues to be of great concern to parents, teachers and education officials.
In 2012, 749 out of 2506 students passed CXC (now known as CSEC) Mathematics – a 29.89% pass rate, which was a reduction of 0.02% from the pass rate in 2011. Certain schools performed dismally: Gros Islet Secondary School, Vieux Fort Technical Secondary School, Marigot Secondary School and George Charles Secondary School each recorded a 0% pass rate. CXC noted that there were deficiencies in Mathematics performance throughout the Caribbean and recorded a 33% pass rate overall. The following table shows more recent data illustrating students’ performance in CSEC mathematics in St. Lucia:
|# of entries
|# of passes
In May 2022, CXC announced that 37% of candidates who wrote CSEC Mathematics achieved an acceptable grade.
Several reasons have been attributed to students’ poor performance in mathematics. Students lack initiative, confidence and motivation. They have a negative attitude, fear mathematics, find it difficult, and do not understand why they need to learn it. Some students also lack parental concern and support especially when the parents themselves have math anxiety due to their own negative math experiences. Mathematics is a subject that should be practiced again and again, and students do not spend enough time doing so. Breaks between school terms do not help as lack of practice during those times leads to loss of critical knowledge. Mathematical concepts are interconnected and hierarchical. A student must master lower-level concepts before understanding higher level concepts. Unfortunately, many students lack basic mathematical skills taught early on in their education and so are unable to learn and understand higher mathematical skills. Unfortunately, remedial teaching is not effectively implemented in schools. Teachers themselves may also have math anxiety. Teachers cannot teach what they do not know. Unfortunately, many teachers do not understand the mathematical concepts that they have to teach. Others may have the knowledge of these concepts but may not be adequately prepared in pedagogy. Thus, the instructional approaches used by some teachers are not effective in helping students learn, understand, and enjoy mathematics. Mathematics has been presented as such a difficult subject when instead, it can be fun and manageable. Students of low-income families also suffer because they lack the materials needed to achieve success.
The importance of mathematics should be emphasized. Mathematics teaches skills that students will use throughout their lives. It teaches logical and critical thinking, it helps a student to develop problem solving skills, it enables one to make inferences and form conclusions, it allows one to formulate and test hypotheses; it promotes skills in predicting and decision- making; it develops skills in reasoning and analytical thinking; it enables one to make sense out of complex situations and explore and learn new ideas. Many careers require students to be proficient in mathematics. In a 2006 study by the US Department of Education, it was found that taking “mathematics beyond Algebra II was the single most significant pre-collegiate variable in determining if students graduated from college.” Paul Peterson, a Harvard government professor remarked that “math skills are the most significant for economic growth.” Businesses encounter difficulty finding workers with much needed mathematical skills. St. Lucia needs a talented and highly skilled workforce with advanced skills in mathematics since a shortage in skills would negatively impact productivity.
The intervention and support needed by mathematics students and teachers will be provided at this Mathematics Camp which will be held in St. Lucia in Summer 2023. The Camp targets students requiring remedial instruction in mathematics and teachers requiring innovative methods of teaching topics that students find difficult to learn.
The goals for this Mathematics Camp
- Students’ performance in CSEC Mathematics will improve after attending the two-week mathematics camp.
- During the mathematics camp, we will deliver mathematics instruction to the Form 4 students in a way that is fun, enjoyable and applicable to real life. This will be accomplished by providing hands-on activities which are fun and relatable thus catering to the needs of the students and increasing student success.
- We will increase the students’ motivation to do mathematics by providing a friendly and interesting environment where students will be encouraged to learn. We will build on their strengths and work on their weaknesses by providing remedial instruction, ensuring that they understand the concepts which are prerequisites for learning more difficult concepts. Student tutors in the classroom will also assist students with mastering concepts. Our focus will be on the mastering of fundamental concepts and not just the minimum competencies required in standard tests.
- We aim to reduce student math anxiety at the camp by teaching the Form 4 students effective study skills, encouraging them to ask questions, affirming them, discouraging negative self-talk, and showing them that they can succeed.
- During the mathematics camp, selected teachers will undergo training in best practices for teaching mathematics concepts which have proven to be difficult to teach. This would help to boost teacher confidence thus making them more effective math teachers which would assist in promoting student success and achieving a pass rate of at least 50% in CSEC Mathematics in 2024.
Dates of Camp
July 24 – August 4 (excluding weekends): for students
July 24 – July 28: for teachers
Time of Camp
10 am – 3 pm (with 1 hour for lunch from 12 – 1 pm)
Sir Arthur Lewis Community College – North Campus Beanfield Comprehensive School – South
Good News Project, Inc. (GNP) – Wisconsin
The Alumni Association of the Tertiary Educational Institutions on the Morne (AATEIM) – St. Lucia
Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC)
The Ministry of Education (MOE) – St. Lucia
2. Mathematics Camp Instructors
20 qualified, enthusiastic, passionate, and excellent mathematics instructors
3. Mathematics Camp Participants
There will be 2 sets of participants:
a) Teachers requiring training – 50 teachers for the North and 50 teachers for the South. Workshop sessions will be designed to include hands-on and discovery learning activities. There will be 2 classes (each with 25 teachers) in the North and the South. Each class will have 2 instructors. Thus, for this part of the Camp, there will be 8 teachers in all. The deadline for selecting these teachers is Friday May 5, 2023.
b) Secondary School (Form 4) Students requiring remedial instruction – 100 students for the North and 100 students for the South. There will be 5 classes (each with 20 students) in the North and South. One instructor will be assigned to each class. Thus, there will be 10 instructors in all. The deadline for students to sign up for this camp is Friday May 5, 2023.
Two tutors will be assigned to each class with the Form 4 students requiring remediation. These tutors can be college math students or math students attending SALCC or the A’level division at Vieux Fort Comprehensive School who are excelling in mathematics. Their task is to provide help to the students in the class as they work on problems assigned by the instructor. There will be 20 tutors in all.
Volunteers’ responsibilities include:
a) Set up the classrooms for instruction for both the teachers needing training and the students needing remedial instruction.
b) Run errands
c) Distribute lunch
d) Clean up after lunch and at the end of the day
6. Parents of students at the Camp
There will be a half-day workshop for parents of students participating in the Camp. The main goal of this workshop is to teach parents skills for motivating their children and for fostering positive attitudes towards mathematics for both the parents and their children.
Assessment of the Success of the Camp
a) Pre- and post-assessment
b) Follow the participants of the camp and receive reports of performance from teachers and principals. Students within these reports will not be identifiable.
It was agreed that all participants at the Camp should have t-shirts with our Math Camp logo and slogan. We would need at about 300 t-shirts. Hopefully, we will get a sponsor so that we can buy those t-shirts.
Sustainability – What next?
One of the spinoff effects of the math camp will be to equip more students with the skills necessary to allow them to succeed.
A successful 2023 event will mean a decrease in the number of students entering their final year of high school with failing math grades. The potential for this trend to reverse the historically low pass rates in the country will cause this program to be sustained through its own momentum and will foster more buy-in from local funding agencies and the educational sector in the country.
We also aim to provide this camp to students and teachers from elementary schools. Delivering quality instruction to younger students and their teachers would help to foster higher success rates in the earlier schooling years which would in turn have a domino effect for later years.
We will put in the initial effort to create learning activities that encourage learning through discovery and participation. The activities will be tweaked and used in the future to build on each iteration of the program. Eventually we will be able to share some of the more successful learning activities with teachers on-island so that more students can be exposed (maybe we can create a website with a repository of learning activities and lesson plans in the future).
We intend to build long-term partnerships with corporate sponsors such as the Saint Lucia National Lotteries Authority, The Saint Lucia Electricity Services (LUCELEC) Trust and the Saint Lucia Social Development Fund who will hopefully see the value of the far-reaching effects of this project.
Mathematics Success = Economic Growth
We are determined to lift up our country by focusing on the education of our students.
Topics for Instruction for Students
- Simplifying algebraic expressions
- Solving linear equations
- By grouping
- Difference of 2 squares
- Solving quadratic equations
- Completing the square
- Quadratic formula
- Ratio & Proportion
- Relations & Functions
Topics for Instruction for Teachers
- Relations & Functions
- Matrix Algebra & Applications
Please use “Maths Camp St Lucia” as your reference.