Mathematics is key to technological development ― Prof Okoya
Mathematical modelling can be used to solve myriads of problems facing Nigeria, a professor of Mathematics, Samuel Segun Okoya, has said.
Delivering the 329th Inaugural lecture of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife titled: “The many ‘faces’ of thermal explosion: mathematical modeling point of view”, Tuesday last week, Okoya said through modelling, experts can learn hidden information about a physical system that can lead to a variety of physical responses which at a first glance would seem strange and beyond immediate understanding.
Okoya, who is the first Occupier of the Pastor E.A Adeboye Outstanding Professor of Mathematics, (Endowed Professorial Chair) University of Lagos, said: “The only way out to solve the myriads of problems we face in the country is by using mathematical models. We use these models in our everyday life. When you model your problem mathematically, then you can solve it using techniques formulated to get solutions either quantitatively or qualitatively and you use that to explain what you are doing to people who are specialists in other areas. Modeling is key.”
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Okoya said the application of mathematical modeling was what gave the world such mind blowing inventions regarded as necessities today – like the internet, virtual reality, electronic radar, telecommunications and DSTV to mention a few.
Okoya said mathematics model should tell stories in reality because they are derived from everyday problems.
“When mathematics is applied to the real world, the most important thing is not whether it represents the complex mathematical techniques, but does it tell something meaningful about the reality? We make impact by solving important mathematical problems derived from everyday living.
“It is synonymous to solving word problems in secondary schools. At its foundation lies a physical problem motivated by nature under certain conditions. The physical descriptions of the problem are then converted to mathematical arguments in form of equations (such as differential or algebraic equations) called the model equations. These are solved validated against related experiments and interpreted for relevant use”.
Underscoring the importance of getting more young people interested in mathematics, Okoya said doing so would help development of local technology.
“The more students who get involved in this abstract search into the unknown, the more doors of amazing technological possibilities we can open, even for Africa, the more we can use mathematics to solve local problems from basics, like softwares for record keeping, home management, municipal water distribution, irrigation management to more complex supersonic technologies. The more of Nigerian youths that put interest in mathematics, the more we can develop our own technologies, create jobs, and build our autonomous economies, thereby reversing the depreciation of the Naira,” he said.
However, the professor blamed teachers for students’ apathy for Mathematics, adding that students would only develop interest in the subject depending on how it is taught.
He urged teachers and lecturers to simplify the subject and breakdown the abstraction to make learning easier.
Okoya also advised the government to make Mathematics a course of interest by monitoring pupils who show passion for the subject and encourage them.
“Why do we have special schools if not to encourage and nurture talents? Why can’t we do the same for mathematics? We have National Mathematical Centre where they organise quiz for secondary schools; is there any follow up? How many have won the competition? Are they monitored up to university level? Are they given scholarship? Are they encouraged? That is one of the ways by which we can ensure that Mathematics is appreciated by our young ones”.
Okoya urged researchers and lecturers in their various fields to relate their study area to the concepts of Mathematics. However, he advised that if there are lapses in the content of the curriculum, members of staff in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in universities should come together to fashion out synergy of ideas as “there has been feedback from some of our students on postgraduates studies outside the country”.