Everyday Computing, Letters & Opinion

Mathematics is a Must

Image of Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant
By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

This week the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) released Saint Lucia’s 2019 CSEC results, which showed a welcome improvement from 76.46% to 76.85% in the overall pass rate, compared to the prior year’s results. Since improvements of all kinds ought to be celebrated, congratulations are in order not just to our secondary school students, but their teachers, families, and Ministry officials. Hopefully, future educational reforms should lead to further improvements in the pass rate. According to the Registrar of Examinations, our CSEC overall performance for Mathematics and English are above most countries in the region, but “more focus is needed on Mathematics at the Secondary Schools.”

As someone who works in the field of computing which requires a good understanding of Mathematics, that statement is wholeheartedly supported. The application of mathematical knowledge and its principles, if mastered at an early age, would serve to strengthen the capability of our students who pursue science and technology related subjects.

There are many examples of elegant mathematics-inspired solutions to computing problems that, if not done right, would cause serious problems. Efficient algorithms and functions are absolutely necessary for today’s modern computer systems. Interestingly, computers use circuitry that performs additions at high speed, in order to perform binary multiplication. A sound understanding of mathematics allows such addition operations to be used to perform multiplications.

Any computer programmer worth their salt should study a problem before writing a single line of code. A good understanding of mathematics typically helps with this initial analysis. In fact, a test of someone’s ability can easily be done, by asking them to produce a small program that sums up the numbers from 1 to 100, then to 1000, and beyond. As the upper limit is increased, the computer’s performance may drastically decrease, if the wrong method is used. The correct method is a function based on mathematics and always returns the desired result in the same amount of time, regardless of the upper limit.

In fact, CXC took the wise step of limiting access to students’ results, based on their country of origin, over a longer time period. It is clear why that was done, to limit the load on their servers, which would arise if everyone attempted to get their results at the same time. This simple yet sound decision is ultimately based on mathematics. By streamlining and scheduling access to the results server, the expected surge in traffic affecting their website could be better managed. Truly, it is fascinating how mathematics may be applied in a practical manner, if we are aware of its power. Thankfully, our access to learning tools and internet resources allows everyone, not just students, to continually refresh their knowledge, and be empowered.

Editor’s note: Dr. Lyndell St Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, database design, and capacity building. To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.

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