Fifty percent of children in their early childhood years have a phobia for mathematics, which precludes students who may otherwise have developed a keen interest in STEM. I did not love mathematics because of that general apathy towards it in my childhood. I became enthusiastic in calculations when my primary school introduced Abacus to us for simplicity and understanding of the subject. Though the Abacus was introduced to keen our interest in calculations, I thought of it as a nice game to manipulate numbers. This rapidly increased the performance and interest of all the students in mathematics.
Occasionally, my school organized inter-class competitions and quizzes using Abacus for computation which everyone wanted to participate in unlike the previous quizzes that scared most away. These competitions did not only develop the interest of the pupils but also increased our creativity, teamwork, confidence and mental alertness. A career in engineering became a natural option and passion because I learnt to translate simple mathematical principles into real-life solutions at an early age.
As a program coordinator at Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF), I am thrilled to have an opportunity to introduce children to coding with Scratch, a simple coding language which makes STEM interesting and fun. Unless Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education is given the deserved attention, society’s development will not happen at the pace and depth it should. Nigeria is the seventh most populous country in the world and with a growing population. From an estimated population of around 42.5 million people at the time of independence in 1960, Nigeria’s population has more than quadrupled to 186,988 million people in 2016 (UN projection). The United Nations anticipates that Nigeria will become the third largest country in the world by 2050 with 399 million people. But most children raised in Nigeria have little knowledge of and a phobia for STEM related subjects in school, which is hindering the nation’s growth and development. This is one of the problems that engendered YTF into introducing coding to children at an early age, through our Coding Clubs.
In partnership with Raspberry Pi Foundation, YTF is equipping youth in Nigeria to code through its Coding Clubs which teach coding and STEM related skills. Coding Clubs are positive peer- learning communities for youth to generate new ideas. The Clubs aim to develop quantitative skills, creative thinking, critical thinking, analytical thinking, skills in students, ages 8 to 13 years old. Coding Clubs helps the students to translate knowledge acquired in STEM subjects into problem solutions, using simple algorithms.
Scratch is a block-based visual programming language and online community developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) targeted primarily at children. It uses mathematical concepts in realistic setting such as coordinate points, simple computation, creating variables and logical reasoning and other mathematical topics, to simulate problem solutions. We know that mathematics is important in laying a solid foundation that would facilitate STEM excellence and should be made real to the children by using basic concepts to simulate problem solutions.
Delight International Academy is one of the schools in Nigeria in which we’ve set up a Coding Club. Students are taught how to build games using mathematical algorithm. The introduction of Coding Clubs has brought about a remarkable growth in the interest and ability of our students in mathematics. This has also improved their interest in other related subjects.
Coding with Scratch has improved the logical and analytical minds of the children. It has also improved and sharpened other skills like vigilance, spatial relation, listening skills, creativity, memory power, patience and precision. It has made them resilient, confident and has given them an I can attitude. The students were always excited for the training and some of them went as far as using their ingenuity to create something unique. The Club is a not just for educational purposes but also a means of empowerment to children. At YTF we know that coding is a new language and every child deserves to be fluent.
Gertrude Azie is a Program Coordinator, ICT and Gender at YTF. Gertrude is an advocate for all things women and technology and is an advocate and mentor to many girls in technology in Nigeria.