The Guardian & SMI partnership on Smart Tutorials
Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. – Edson Arantes do Nascimento (aka Pele)
Dear student reader,
You are welcome to the first edition of the Smart Tutorials column. This column presents the creative platform for students and knowledge-seekers to learn facts about different subjects ranging from Mathematics, English, Biology, Chemistry and Physics.
While the primary audience of this column as targeted are mostly secondary school students between SS1 and SS3 who are either just getting introduced to these subjects or who are close to sitting examination papers in the WASSCE, GCE, IGSCE, TOEFL, SAT, etc., it is hoped that many adults will also find the lessons interesting for personal intellectual development and self-updating. This way, parents and other adults can also use the tutorial contents in providing assistance to students at home and elsewhere.
Since preparation is key to success, especially success in academic pursuits, you can rest assured that out team of experts in the respective subject areas is ready to prepare relevant materials that will aid your preparation to face and surmount any task in any area(s) of the subjects that will be covered in this column. So watch out for this space.
Dr. Nelson Ayodele
Doing Mathematics the Easy Way
Mathematics is more than a subject. It is the tool, which almost everything on earth depends on, including science, technology, commerce, and many aspects of life. Mathematics is a necessary subject if we must be able to function adequately in the society without getting cheated, robbed or abused in any way. Its basic requirement is simply your interest to do math!
It is interesting that students fail Mathematics more than any other subject, particularly English, in WAEC, NECO, GCE and UTME examinations. This poor performance in Mathematics can be traced to:
• poor handling of the subject by teachers right from the elementary level;
• poor teaching methodology by the teachers;
• apathy and negligence on the part of parents, who fail to encourage their children to put more efforts and interest in the study of Mathematics;
• lack of special focus and vision by the Management of many schools;
• the unserious attitude of students towards the subject.
Painfully, this continuous track of poor performance in school certificate examinations has increased the fear of Mathematics during lesson periods. This has graduated into almost a systemic phobia for the subject. To help this situation, teachers, schools, policy-makers, parents and students have roles to play.
Here are some of the solutions which students can apply to overcome their fear of Mathematics:
• don’t panic and don’t be passive in the Mathematics class, but have confidence in yourself;
• have positive attitude towards the subject;
• have an ‘I CAN’ thinking;
• be in tune with the ability of your Mathematics teacher;
• spend more time solving Mathematics problems;
• be patient and focus on understanding the concepts;
• study in group with your mates;
• ask questions from your tutor, classmates or your mentor;
• attempt a question daily and start with the simplest one;
• go at your own pace. You are not competing with anybody but yourself;
• practise very well;
• celebrate your mistakes and learn from them; and
• have a personal study timetable.
• With these tips at the back of your mind, your experience with Mathematics is about to get more positive than ever!
Dr Abioye Laoye
Standard Mandate International
What is Correct English?
The simplest answer to this question is that ‘correct English’ is English spoken rightly to the right person at the right time and in the right place or situation. In this sense, a lawyer speaking the Patrick Obahiagbon type of English to a roadside food vendor, or to a beggar, is not speaking ‘correct’ English. It does not matter how grammatical his sentences may be (look up the words bombastic and grandiloquent/grandiloquence in your dictionary). Similarly, a Nigerian who says to a first-time British visitor, ‘Take a bus to the nearest garage’ instead of ‘Board a bus to the nearest park/terminus’ is also not speaking ‘correct’ English.
This is the essence of language: meaningful communication with the right person at the right time. As a user of English as a second language, it is important to understand the rules that govern usage of words, phrases, sentences, etc. in that language. The best way to summarise the meaning of ‘grammar’ is rule. The grammar of a language is the body of rules that guide how that language is used, whether these rules come in the form of a textbook, prescriptive guides or descriptive analysis. Approaching your English examinations from this understanding will surely help you develop a positive attitude and a can-do mindset towards gaining the mastery of English, approaching your examinations with confidence and passing in flying colours.
The English Language Exam – Purpose and Expectation
As a prelude to the journey toward your examination experience in the English Language, it is important for you to understand why it is you have to be tested in English Language. A first thing you must know is that, for many West African countries, English is a language of colonial heritage and the medium of communication in almost all social spheres and contexts such as Government, Commerce, Media, International Relations, and many more. In other words, English acme to be used in West Africa in these different areas because the British had colonized the peoples of that region.
Gaining the mastery in the language therefore implies that you will be able to find your way through any context in which the language is being used, without difficulty. To certify your mastery of the language, at least as a basic or ordinary user, the West African Examination Council has the mandate to test your knowledge of, and ability to use the language proficiently to:
(i) use correct English;
(ii) write about incidents in English that are appropriate to specified audiences and situations;
(iii) organize material in paragraphs that are chronologically, spatially and logically coherent;
(iv) control sentence structures accurately;
(v) exhibit variety in the use of sentence patterns;
(vi) comply with the rules of grammar;
(vii) spell and punctuate correctly;
(viii) comprehend written and spoken English;
(ix) recognize implied meaning, tones and attitudes;
(x) use an acceptable pronunciation that can be comprehended by others;
(xi) recognize the physical characteristics of English sounds and the letters that represent them;
(xii) pick out and summarize relevant information from set passages.
Your three-year journey from SS1 to SS3 basically prepares you to acquire fluent and proficient use of the language. To test your level of proficiency in the language, the examination in English will cover different aspects of the language such as lexis and structure, writing in English, the sounds of English, among other things. These different areas are what will be covered in the subsequent publishing of the column.
Vocabulary: tabloid; hurdle; bombastic; grandiloquent; prelude; heritage; colonial; certify;
Abiodun M. Bello
Standard Mandate International
Understanding Life through Biology
Before you delve into your lessons in the subject of Biology, it is crucial for you to have an idea of what the subject is all about and the areas of interest that it covers. First of all, Biology is all about life and living things. The subjects examines in details every characteristic that make up living things, from the animal kingdom which man is said to belong, and to the plant kingdom which covers flowers, fruits and all plants that can be found on earth. Why are human beings different in skin colours and looks? Why are some plants found in certain places and not in others? How is water formed? How is a baby formed in the womb? Biology provides interesting answers to many of these questions and more.
Therefore, in Biology, the origin of man and other animals as well as all plant life is traced down to their cell; so the cell is said to be the smallest unit of life. Therefore, as you are taken through this subject on this page, look out with interest and curiosity rather than with the mindset of someone preparing for an exam in this subject. This is because, beyond the things that you will learn for your exams, the subject of Biology also offers you information about living every day. The facts that you will come across are what you see every day and are relevant in such a way that you can apply them. For example, when you go to the hospital for checkup or treatment, your blood sample is taken and collected in a tube. The collected sample of your blood contains cells that make up what you know as your blood, namely the red blood cells and the white blood cells. The same can be done to plants in order to understand the nature of their cells.So, as you will see when the lessons start on this page, Biology offers you interesting facts about life from the perspective of science. Feel free and enjoy the moments as you learn.
Mrs. Adetutu Adeniji
Former Registrar, West African Examination Council
Understanding the Physical Life
Physics is all about the physical or material world; that is, it is about the study of the things that we can see and touch. All physical life is built from atoms, so we say that an atom is the smallest unit of matter. Matter is any substance or material that can be analysed as a mass or body. The subject of Physics enables us to understand how physical materials are formed and what they are made of. For example, what is a metal made of? Or, what is an atomic bomb made from? In Physics, we try to understand the materials that make up the things we see around us.
Because, in the physical world, we encounter and do things within time, places, and distance, we have to produce laws and formulas that help us to understand these factors and how they relate to one another. For example, Newton’s laws of motion help us to understand how bodies (that is people, objects, etc) moves from one place to another, what makes it to move or what happens to it while it moves. We also try to understand things better by representing them with formulas e.g. E=MC2 is a simple formula that helps us to understand the components that come together to produce an atomic bomb.
In Physics, we learn that laws that make things work or happen are universal in nature. Anything that is done or produced in one place using a particular formula can be done or produced in another place using the same formula to produce exactly the same result. What is light? Where does light come from and how does it travel? What is sound? How is sound created and how does it travel? How is it perceived by the ear from different distances and at different volume levels? These are some of the questions that the subject of Physics puts forward so that, as human beings, we can understand the nature of things as well as our physical existence.
As the lessons will begin, therefore, be as open-minded as possible to receive knowledge and facts that will be coming to you for the first time about the nature of physical things. Physics is more than a subject; it is the application of universal laws and principles. Watch out for this space!
Editorial Team, Smart Tutorials
A Simple Approach to Understanding Chemistry
When you say the word ‘Chemistry,’ your mind is likely to think of chemicals at that same moment. So, in a simple way, the subject of Chemistry is all about chemicals. Chemistry deals with how different substances combine to form new ones. It is about how chemicals are composed or how they change in response to each other or to something else. This may happen in the human body, in an animal’s body or in a laboratory. Therefore, your journey in Chemistry is most likely to begin with the Periodic Table! The Periodic Table is the arrangement of chemical elements in the order of their atomic number, electron configurations, and recurring chemical properties. Your instructors will elaborate more on these when the lessons start.
In Chemistry, even water is understood to contain properties or elements in it that make it a ‘chemical’ of some sort. So, Chemistry deals with reactions and interactions between different elements. It is about how things change, what makes them change and at what speed they change. What acts upon them to make them change? These are some of the questions that the subject of Chemistry seeks to find answers to. To do these, we also depend on chemical formulas to predict chemical reactions and to analyse chemical reactions. How do chemical elements bond to produce different chemical structure? All of these processes take place around us, whether we notice them or we do not notice them and when our physical eyes can see these changes and reactions or not.
So, as the lessons will start on this page, your approach should be that of someone who is learning in order to apply, and not just for the sake examination readiness.
Editorial Team, Smart Tutorials
Study Habit Skills
• Study with a partner or in groups
• Practise peer-teaching
• Think and process information like a teacher
• Make quick notes of important ideas
• Do not make notes on what’s already in the book, it wastes your time and attention
For further correspondence, write in for comment, clarifications, contributions or question on any topic of discussion on this column at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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