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Computers and Math

Computers and Math
15 February 2004

Hello and welcome back to your Namibia volunteer-logue. The new school term is four weeks old already so let me fill you in with what has been a transpirin’.  

Well, first off, I have some big news for you chicken fans out there. Our white hen is sitting on a clutch of eleven eggs. So in a few weeks we there will be exactly eleven new chickens, isn’t that great! The last hatching is still around; they are almost full-grown and spend most of their time in the neighbour’s yards. I haven’t yet had one of the learners show me how to cook one up, but it might happen soon as one of the roosters is starting to get pretty noisy a little too early every morning.

My teaching is going well. I spent the first few weeks of school going over the exams from last year for grade 12 maths. Because I covered most of their syllabus last year I only have a few important topics to cover before I begin with “revision” this year. I am now starting the topic of probability. I took a deck of cards to class to illustrate some probability in action; they seemed to be very impressed with my shuffling ability. The grade 8 math is going well enough, although I basically have to learn how to teach all over again with them. It is fun to teach them though; at the end of the year it will be interesting to see how effective I have been (very, I’m sure). My keyboarding and word processing class is officially started now. We are focusing on “theory” for now though as our computer lab won’t arrive until “mid-March.” I taught them the hierarchy of memory (bit, byte, KB, etc) and that computers really only know two things: on (1) and off (0). Right now I am teaching them the basics of floppy disks and CD-ROM disks. After I told them how they shouldn’t touch the mirrored side of a CD I passed around a CD-ROM and told them I was going to count their fingerprints when it got back to me. It went around the whole room and they actually did surprisingly well for Namibian 8th graders.   I also teach PE. I secretly signed out a soccer ball from the storeroom and the boys seem happy enough just to go with it for the period.   

            I didn’t teach for the first three days of last week because I had a junior secondary (grade 8-10) math workshop. Every term here there will be various workshops for teachers to attend. Last year I went to an IGCSE (grade 11 and 12) physical science workshop and an IGCSE math workshop. They were very useful both in that I learned new and more effective ways of teaching various topics and also in that I made good contacts from meeting other teachers and volunteers. So naturally I wanted to go to this workshop to help me in teaching grade 8; I found that I did learn a lot that will be useful. It was also very interesting to get to see my fellow teachers in action. There were about ten other teachers there and it was pretty scary how bad these math teachers could be with math. They reminded me of my grade 12 at the end of last year. The advisory teacher in math for this region is a middle aged VSO volunteer from the UK named Maria. It is her job to put on the math workshops and be accessible to math teachers that need support with their teaching.   I think Maria has a really tough and frustrating job. I mean, if I have to explain something to a 12th grader that’s fine, no problem. However, she has to explain basically the same things to math teachers. The obvious problem being that these teachers don’t know how to do some of what they are paid to teach. Maria was supposed to have three Namibian facilitators (facilitators are the advisory teacher’s version of sustainability, the idea is that they get experience leading workshops and could one day plan and execute one themselves). On day one only two showed up. The one that didn’t show was the likable but meek Mr. Kiimba, one of the other math teachers at Ekulo. I think I scared him away. I saw him on Monday morning and asked him if he was going to the workshop. He said he was going and that I didn’t need to go: “You are only teaching two classes… I will bring you some stuff back.” Of course I was still going to go and I think he realized this when I didn’t sign in the registry book. At the time I didn’t realize he was a facilitator (which means he was supposed to present some of the sessions). For day two only one of the facilitators showed. After the end of day two Maria went to Ekulo and found Mr. Kiimba. I wasn’t present for their meeting but he did show up to lead some sessions on Wednesday.


 I hope everyone had a good Valentines day.  This ad is from the Namibian newspaper.

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