Since last year, I have been visiting the university broadcast service, Atlantic FM to discuss the relevance of mathematics in our society and to increase awareness on the use of mathematics. This is an attempt towards removing the mathematics phobia among university students and in our society in general.
This is very important because Ghana lacks mathematicians. In total, there are about seventy (70) PhD degree holders in mathematics with five (5) being female. The statistics even gets worse in computer science and other science related areas. The country has a population of about thirty-one million (31million) people with more females to males.
How does mathematics meets industry in Ghana? How do we explain mathematical concepts using Ghanaian dictionary or tools, i.e. to use the things that surround us. Or how do we localize mathematical concepts and leverage on our societal problems to develop mathematics. For example, while teaching our final years Numerical Analysis, i introduced the students to Octave and wanted the students to solve a Bungee jump problem. Of course, having lived in Austria and visited Vienna severally, its easier to understand such a phenomenon. However, i found myself, explaining how the bungee jump looks like.
These experiences reveals to me that students need a constant motivation on the real-life applications of certain mathematical concepts that looks seemingly abstract. Of course, one cannot make every mathematics applicable immediately. But for the undergraduate student, mathematics needs to be felt or appreciated as an everyday language. I had to explain Oware as an example of a congruence modulo four (4) game in my introduction to abstract algebra class. What about matrices? What about relations and mappings, etc?
I have added the picture to the left to create an awareness that, there can be no industrial revolution and accelerated development without a strong mathematics outreach. Such issues led to the establishment of Industrial mathematics programs all over Europe, of which i am a beneficiary. I am an alumnus of Erasmus Mundus Industrial Mathematics program that was sponsored by the European Union few years ago.
One might argue that, our country does not have industries. However, we do have some industries or companies that easily benefit from high-end mathematics students or researchers. There won't be any improvement if industries do not see the relevance of mathematics or have no trust for the researchers in our society. It can start from minimal discussions and build towards an event.
Well, back to the subject of how does mathematics meet industry in Ghana? I will list few daily activities that involve mathematics and that be a source of wealth if we critically consider mathematical research as a tool to enhancing these area.
Traffic Management and development - The problem of traffic load in some cities can be well managed when posed as mathematics problems.
Bus Scheduling problems - Wondering how you commute in your daily "Trotro" (shuttle) or bus and asking yourself why the driver is using a certain road?
How many fans in a hall - Have you ever entered a hall and wondered why the room is poorly ventilated and yet there are so many fans?
What about why are some taxis using a route that makes them keep long hours in the traffic even when you know short-cuts?
So i'm wondering if readers can share some of the areas of mathematics that they find difficult to connect to their with their daily living. Or do you think there are some areas in Ghana that you consider as highly in need of mathematics.
In the end, we had a nice discussion about many things on the Campus Broadcasting Services (CBS). The unedited video can be found here.