PERCENTAGE is a Mathematics topic introduced in Year Six and reinforced in lower-secondary classes. It is fundamental in the study of other Mathematics topics, essential in the study of Science, and used in subjects like Geography, Principles of Accounts, Commerce and Economics.
Understanding percentages is necessary in daily life. School-leavers should have a good grasp of percentages.
Schools should teach students how to understand and appreciate Mathematics and its uses.
A calculator may be at hand. But, see how they go about using it.
For instance, an item is originally priced at RM250, with a 20 per cent discount offered. The calculator will be used to work out the discount amount (RM250 multiplied by 20 per cent, which makes RM50).
Then, the amount is deducted from the original price, which works out to RM200. With the correct understanding of percentages, one would straightaway use the calculator to work out 80 per cent of the original price (RM250 multiplied by 80 per cent, which makes RM200).
Better still, mentally calculate eight multiplied by 250, which makes 2,000. Common sense tells you that the answer should be just 200, making the discounted price RM200.
You do not need higher-order thinking skills to solve the problem, as it requires only a good understanding of percentages and simple mental arithmetic skills.
Another common error is in the calculation and expression of percentages. Usually, there is no problem in figuring out that five out of 100 makes five per cent.
But, when it is 25 out of 300, the answer unsuspectingly quoted is 0.083 per cent, when it should be 8.3 per cent. Here is an example of how percentages could be wrongly calculated.
It was reported that 300 of 40,000 university intakes would be subjected to the new Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average assessment system.
It was quoted that this made up 0.0075 per cent of the intakes. The correct percentage should be 0.75 per cent. To get that, it is necessary to multiply by 100 the result of 300 divided by 40,000.
Only three students make up 0.0075 per cent of 40,000. We have to be careful.
Sometimes, to prop up, strengthen and legitimise our arguments, we resort to quoting numbers, numerals, statistics and probabilities.
But instead of making us sound rational, empirical and “scientific”, we become the laughing stock of those who are knowledgeable in the subject.
Schools should not teach students only how to solve Mathematics problems, but also how to understand and appreciate the subject and its uses.
The way forward to reignite interest in Science
MUCH has been reported on students’ declining interest in Science programmes at the tertiary level. The issue is related to the 60:40 policy introduced by the Education Ministry a few years back.
As an academician, I believe that examinations are important to grade students and gauge their understanding of a subject.
Being part of an exam-oriented system, we tend to focus on grades rather than the essence of learning, particularly in core subjects, like Science and Mathematics.
(File pix) This photo taken on July 25, 2016 at the department of Zoological Sciences of Addis Ababa University in Addis Ababa shows a scientific instrument used to measure mosquito scent. AFP Photo
Participating in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, as well as the Programme for International Student Assessment, has become our “grand challenge”, and we prepare our students to compete at the international level.
And yet, the assessments have bound us to producing students who are good only academically.
No assessment has been carried out to evaluate students holistically.
Therefore, introducing activities based on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in other subjects is worth considering. How do we make students enjoy learning Science? And, how can they benefit from it now and in the future?
These are points to ponder when incorporating STEM in the learning process. STEM was created to meet the requirement of all subjects involved.
Incorporating STEM-based activities in other subjects activates the thinking process. Issues like climate change become easier for students to grasp if STEM elements are incorporated.
Each element in STEM can be addressed so that students get the idea that Science is not a stand-alone subject. It is more exciting if they are allowed to take part in hands-on activities.
Learning through investigation helps them develop their confidence, and working as a team teaches them the importance of teamwork in problem-solving.
STEM-based activities are relevant to 21st-century education trends. Furthermore, learning Science through STEM-based activities presents students with equal opportunities.
Learning a single subject via the traditional approach is no longer practised these days.