Math is fun with Claude Lee
By Raschid Osman
May 30, 2004
“I USED to love Mathematics for its own sake, and I still do, because it allows for no hypocrisy and no vagueness, my two betes noires.”
This centuries-old quote is still as true today as when it was penned by Stendhal. And Mathematician extraordinaire Claude Lee is only too aware of its entire meaning.
Lee lives and breathes Mathematics. He teaches the sometimes not-too-popular subject in unique style, eschewing the traditional text-book, and applying the principles of Mathematics to mundane, everyday-ish happenings.
Of course his students love this, and flock his Akawini Street home in Campbellville in droves, from 6.30 a.m. to around 7.30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, revelling in the chatty Lee style, and loving it so much that they sit exams and excel like nobody’s business.
Claude Lee has been offering Math lessons for the past eight years, after teaching at St. Joseph High. He has little truck with traditional teaching techniques, as he finds these inadequate, for they leave behind the slow learner, and even those who are not slow but who do not readily grasp the concepts spouted by teachers who move on regardless.
Lee was always mindful about problems many students have with Mathematics, and being a Christian believer, he prayed about this. And he speaks of the methods he now uses as being revealed to him by God.
“So we lift each other up in prayer before each class, my students and I, and then we all have fun and learn Mathematics at the same time,” Lee affirms. This is reflected in a banner that spans a wall in his classroom. It reads: `Mathematics is fun’ and `Jesus is Lord.’
Lee links principles in Math with Gods’ principles. He finds that terms such as infinite, multiply, and add are all crucial to the message of the Scriptures
To factorise in the Lee lexicon is to go to bed, lie down, pull up one’s feet and cover. Multiplying is likened to a boy dancing with a girl, closely and he is A, bracketed. Add a plus sign to the A, and that becomes a chaperone, a barrier to the multiplication process.
In Algebra, a positive value is referred to as “I have” and a negative one as “I owe.”
Last year, Lee’s students got 20 Grade Ones at CXC examinations, and he hopes to up this 30 this year.
His first class in the day begins at 6.30 a.m. with high school students. They come from Queen’s College, Bishops’ High, and President’s College, among other schools, and two buses whisk them off from his classroom to their respective schools around 8.30 a.m.
Later in the day, his students come from their places of employment, men and women eager to learn Mathematics, ranging from their teens to 50 years old. On an average, Lee deals with 60 students each day.
As examinations draw near, Sunday sessions are held.
Fifteen-year-old Eko Wilson, a fourth former at Queen’s College, is enthused about learning with Lee. She is quite taken with his improvisations which go a long way in helping her to retain what he teaches.
“I’m encouraged by his style; he makes me want to do more, and his humour is contagious.” She said.
“He took us, all his students, to service at First Assembly of God Church last Sunday, and we were prayed for there, and I know that when I go into the examination room later this week I will perform well.”
Eko began lessons with Lee in July last and her examination grades have jumped from around 60 per cent when she started to about 96 per cent.
And then there is 15-year-old Lincoln Lewis from President’s College, another Lee fan, who, like Eko, has been propelled into a new love affair with Math. This fourth former didn’t like the subject at first. He has now been converted, with grades in the 70’s.
“I’m caught by the joyful way Mr. Lee teaches,” Lincoln says. “He never moves on until every member of the class grasps every concept. He breaks them down in interesting ways. I’m taking math at CXC this week, and I am aiming at a Grade One.
Claude Lee regards his revolutionary style as a matter of course. Possessed of an engaging humility, he attributes what he is achieving to the goodness of God; and he looks at himself as merely a conduit for passing on to eager students the principles of Mathematics in a manner both joyous and effective.