List

So the pedestrian bridge under construction across the M1 highway on Grayston in Sandton collapsed yesterday, falling on at least one car killing two people and injuring 22. This is tragic and our condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives. My first reaction to the news was, how can this happen in 2015!? Who led this project? What and where did they study? I ask this because not so long ago I had a conversation with some young people who argued that we must stop talking about mathematics and its importance because there are other important subjects that we must encourage students to take. The young person angrily asked me why is mathematics more important and why should we worry that we have too few people who study it. In my explanation to him about why mathematics is important for society I pulled him to my office window and asked to look at our road infra-structure. I asked him what he thought it takes to build the bridges that he was seeing. I also asked him who he thinks will build those bridges if we do not encourage more students to study mathematics. For the student our conversation was about the inequity of disciplines, while for me our conversation was about the future of our country and our nation.

We need bridges and therefore we need mathematics – high quality mathematics teaching that can produce excellent mathematicians, scientists, engineers and technical experts who can do a good job with building bridges. What happened yesterday with the collapse of the Grayston Bridge is just a small reminder that, quality mathematics teaching and learning is a matter of life and death.

Bridges serve one basic purpose that of connecting two points that are otherwise disconnected and not so easy to access. They generally provide the shortest distance between the two points. The art and science of constructing bridges rely heavily on the mathematics as well as the physics of stress and load. Some of the prevailing factors that influence the designs and types of bridges include the intended use and users, the available construction materials, environmental conditions, cost, adequate manpower, the length of the bridge, present and projected traffic load, the free height under the bridge, aesthetic considerations and the available technology.

We know the name of the company tasked with the construction of the bridge. My question is who are the individual experts who led the project? What and where did they study and can they explain to us what went wrong so we learn from this experience?

I also hope that mathematics teachers use this incident as an opportunity to teach

Leave a Reply/feedback

  Posts

1 2 3
October 27th, 2016

5 Days to 50

There was a time in my life when I thought everything about me was not right and needed fixing. I […]

October 11th, 2016

The current state of our public higher education presents an opportunity: A statement from Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng outgoing President of Convocation of the University Of The Witwatersrand

The current state of our public higher education presents an opportunity: A statement from Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng outgoing President of […]

September 12th, 2016

50 days to 50

In 50 days I’ll be dipping my toes into the big 5-0. It seems like just yesterday when friends cheered, […]

August 24th, 2016

FabAcademic on patriarchy and letting things go

It is my first time to attend a meeting and so I, as usual, go round to greet people that […]

August 10th, 2016

Don’t make excuses work hard

Whatever people tell you, don’t let them make you believe that there is no value in hard work! The value […]

July 31st, 2016

On race and being mean

When you are the only black in the department and some of your colleagues are mean to you, you think […]

June 2nd, 2016

Opening keynote speech presented by Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng at the 2016 Canon Collins Scholars Conference on 26 th May in Cape Town 2016: A time for Academic Activism

It is really a pleasure to speak at this conference focusing on academic activism. Of course, Canon John Collins was […]

April 3rd, 2016

On being a high achiever

Just been reading an article on how high achievers organise their lives. There is a pattern: all of them start […]

March 28th, 2016

So-called right people

Often times we talk about the ‘right people’ or the ‘right person’ for the opportunity or the funding or the […]

March 6th, 2016

My thoughts on language and the calls for Afrikaans to fall

Today I was invited to speak at the Woordfees in Stellenbosch. I was the only back on the panel because […]