Sunday, August 31, 2014

African-Centered Algebra

NKALA Environmental

Yaw Agbede and his wife founded NKALA Environmental, an engineering, consulting and educational firm, to provide a place of employment for students who had been educated in African-centered schools and programs and desired to work for a firm that embraced those same principles.  The husband and wife team are just as committed to education.  Nkala Educational services is the second pillar of their firm.  What started out as online tutoring has grown into curriculum publishing.  What Baba Yaw found is that he spent so much time combing through his math texts and creating worksheets for the students he tutored, that it would serve him better to create a workbook of his own.  This is how African Pre-Algebra was born. Baba Yaw's work seeks to correct the misconception that mathematics cannot be taught from an African-center.  Why is this important? For the same reason knowing our history is important.  The oldest math textbook in the world was written in Africa.  But when our children encounter higher level mathematics, they hear names like Fibonacci and Pythagoras, totally alienating them from ownership.  Baba Yaw goes even deeper saying that teaching Algebra and other higher level mathematics from an African center is also political. "The biggest motivation for me to do what I do, for me and my children, is that I want them to use their skills for our people; and, if they are going to do that, they need a political education in every single subject, including math and science." Approaching mathematics in this way encourages our children to start firms and not just work for others.

NKALA Educational Services

African Pre-Algebra is the first in a series of workbooks that NKALA Educational Services plans to publish.  African Pre-Algebra is more than 300 pages and includes basic counting lessons in Akan and Twi. Click here to see a sample, including the scope and sequence. Baba Yaw says it is important to learn African languages as it relates to math because it expands a student's knowledge of traditional number systems and patterns, which develops skills in mental math.  Future workbooks will include Algebra I, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus, but not necessarily in that order.  

Translating The Ahmose Mathematics Papyrus

Another project NKALA Educational Services will embark upon this year is the translation of a 3,800 year old math text from ancient Africa.  The Ahmose Mathematics Papyrus will show specific examples of Algebra, Trigonometry, Sine, Cosine, Tangent, Cotangent, Area, Circumference and more.  How can we be afraid of something we originated!

Tutoring Services

In addition to traditional tutoring services in mathematics and engineering, NKALA also offers custom, project-based or skill-based tutoring programs.  For example, one of their clients, a college graduate, wanted to learn everything there was to know about Solar Panels.  Baba Yaw designed a program, tutored, mentored and prepared him to take the assessment.  This kind of unique tutoring is ideal for out-of-the-box learners who have ideas and projects that require more than a parent can offer.

Stay tuned

This year NKALA will also publish Numbers and Nature:  A Guide to Counting in 4 African Languages (Twi, Kikongo, Yoruba and Swahili).  Baba Yaw, who speaks 3 African languages fluently, says that studying languages helped him be more creative and have more clarity as it related to his technical studies.

For more information, visit their website:

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