Kamati – Rewriting the story of Mathematics for Early learners in primary Schools

“Mathematics is a very hard subject.” You’ve probably heard this countless times or even said it yourself. For a while now, I’ve wondered what makes mathematics seem hard. I chose blame the teachers in the discipline for complicating the subject. Did this leave me with peace? No, it didn’t. I still wondered how it is possible that some students taught by the same teachers managed to excel the tests and exams while others didn’t come out of these with much. However, I wouldn’t want to rule out the possibility of a teacher complicating the subject.

I took my search for answers to the internet and learned of interesting findings. One teacher on Quora, mentioned that math is cumulative. Let’s take an example from my Senior Three (or Form Three) history class; I crammed the migration process of the bantu from West Africa to the southern part of the continent. After sitting for my final examinations, I never revisited that story again and this didn’t make my life any more miserable at all. I cannot say the same for mathematics. The simple arithmetics learnt in primary two, applied throughout my course of study where mathematics was involved. As you may not find this surprising, it didn’t stop in school. Math is as sticky as super glue.

The point here is; Unlike many disciplines, mathematics is not a subject whose topics can be learned in one day and thrown into the archives. It’s cumulative discipline which requires patience and hard work to understand. It can take days to grasp a concept in mathematics.

Earlier, you probably remember a mention of students who found math difficult while others don’t have much trouble with the subject. Well, the truth is, we have different abilities. Fleming Grace a senior academic advisor at Georgia Southern University, says this in her article on why mathematics seems difficult, “According to some brain science scholars, logical, left-brain thinkers tend to understand things in sequential bits, while artistic, intuitive, right-brainers are more global.” This means that left-brainers may grasp math concepts faster than right brainers.

Unfortunately, in most schools, the playing field is the same for both left and right-brainers. As some students may find trouble with a given topic, the teacher may not wait for them to grasp it and move on to the next topic. Being a cumulative discipline, it might prove hard for the student to understand
the next topic. As this goes on and on, more topics are covered, and the students may get more and more frustrated. In the end, mathematics is accused of being a very difficult subject.

An honourable nemesis to mathematics that is probably worth mentioning is laziness. Math requires hard work and patience. For pre-teens, this might be a tricky challenge to overcome. From the highlights above, we can see that the problem is not mathematics alone. If you still think the problem is mathematics, maybe you need to see a doctor (Just kidding of course 🙃 ).

The big questions for me after learning all this would be; (1)How can mathematics be made easier to learn? (2) How can the playing field be leveled for all learners of the subject?

This is where Kamati, comes to the rescue. “What’s the meaning of kamati?” you ask We’ll get tot hat shortly. First, let’s try to understand what it is. This is a game designed to make mathematics more fun to learn. It is still progressive as we’ve seen the discipline to be. However, the player doesn’t
have the pressure to rush to the next stage of learning without getting a hold of the concepts in their current stage which maybe the case in a school setting.

We saw earlier that right-brainers are more artistic than logical. Well, Kamati has the qualities to enhance one’s logical thinking as it is not limited to the sequential topics covered in the class room. In the next article, we’ll take a deeper dive into Kamati to see how these goals are to be met.

Before signing out, let me explain Kamati. This is slang used to refer to mathematics in local schools. If you’ve attended a local school, you’ve probably heard the word before. If you haven’t, ask someone who’s still in school, or at home due to CoViD-19. It’s not a made up word.

Kamati is part of the three games being developed under the game plus project funded by the Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund Round 1. The aim of Gameplus is to strengthen the teaching and learning of science and technology for primary school focusing on primary 5, 6 and 7. It is envisaged that Kamati will improve the mathematics grades and in turn interest learners in science related courses leading to an innovative knowledge economy. The research project is lead by Associate Professor Benjamin Kanagwa, from the school of computing and informatics Technology

Supporting partners include NITA-U and Ministry of Education and Sports. Please follow us on twitter, facebook and for more details.