Professor at SUNY Oneonta and a CADFP Fellow Visiting Scholar Strathmore
Since 2006, Prof. Penina Kamina has been setting aside her summer break to return to Kenya, her home country, to contribute to strengthening research, teaching and learning of mathematics education. This year, 2021, the professor of mathematics at SUNY Oneonta, New York, carved out May to August as time dedicated to research at Strathmore University.
After having made an application to the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program (CADFP), she was paired with Dr. Mary Ochieng, Director of Research and Graduate Training, Strathmore Institute of Mathematical Sciences (SIMS). This fellowship programme enables many African institutions in the sub-Saharan and western regions i.e., Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, to host an African-born scholar, currently based in North America, to work on projects in research collaboration, graduate student teaching/mentoring and curriculum co-development.
The two scholars were matched due to their mutual interest and work in the field of mathematics education. They are working together on developing curriculum for master’s degree in Mathematics Education, building research capacity in mathematics education and conducting research on the competency-based curriculum (CBC). They have set out to explore supports needed by primary teachers to effectively teach the CBC mathematics curriculum where they would be comparing needs in the city school and needs in a rural school. The key participants in the study are practicing teachers— “the teachers are in touch with reality and are thus in a better position to tell us what support they would require in implementing the curriculum effectively.” From this pilot study, the two researchers plan to apply for a grant to conduct a study involving more schools with sustainable professional development.
Prof. Kamina has an undergraduate and a master’s degree in mathematics from Kenyatta University. “I chose mathematics as an area of study a long time ago. In hindsight I don’t think I was into reading and writing. But math made sense and when I went to university and discovered I can take double math, I jumped right into it.” Her father had a huge impact on her subject of choice. “I’m lucky to have been my father’s first born. As an accountant, he did a lot of math and he introduced me to the arithmetic side of it, where he would give me his clients’ receipts, income tax documents to record, add, and the like; and for my efforts, I would receive payment.” Although as a young child she was not drawn to the arts, she now appreciates literature, poetry, and languages. “I love poetry and learning other languages although at the moment I only know English, Luo and Swahili!”
At SUNY Oneonta, she prepares preservice elementary teachers in mathematics education and technology. When the pandemic forced the University to shift to online classes, she felt that pedagogical skills, core to working with children, suffered. “While online, it’s tough to gauge whether the preservice teacher has the capacity to deal with a child throwing a tantrum in the middle of instruction. On the positive side, we’ve learnt that if a child is unwell and unable to make it to class, they can they still continue with their education virtually.”
Like many lecturers worldwide, she had to put in many hours while under lockdown so as to transition to online teaching. “At first the experiences from Wuhan seemed distant. It didn’t take a week before we ourselves were on lockdown. It then started raining fear and death. It was terrifying to hear of three family members out of five succumbing to the virus. While transitioning to online learning, we also had to calm our students as a number of them were anxious and faced with uncertainty.”
Prof. Kamina was a panelist at the 6th Strathmore International Mathematical Conference discussing the perspectives and reflections on the teaching and learning of mathematics during the COVID-19 pandemic. She will also participate in the conference as a facilitator of the post-conference school for graduate students and early career researchers.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
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