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Why we need more girls in Africa in STEM - and how to get them there

In this World Economic Forum article World Bank Country Director, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, writes about the gross under-representation of girls in STEM fields within Sub-Saharah Africa. She unpacks the importance of attracting more female representation to the sector and explains what needs to be done in order for this to be achieved.

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NMU model brings ‘second-chance’ matrics closer to university

A joint venture between Nelson Mandela University, North-West University and the North-West Department of Education has seen a  high-tech maths and science support programme being rolled-out in various South African schools (primarily in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal). The technology-blended approach was developed by Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC) . The technology uses 80 GammaTutors - digitalised teaching and learning devices which are able to be linked to any screen.


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Gauteng parents attend maths classes to help their children with homework

Consultancy company, WeSolve4X, offers maths master classes to parents in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng so that they can assist their children with their homework. WeSolve4X describe their tutoring model as: Maths+Parents-Hunger=Success. Their programme takes a three-step approach which is focused on exploring the relevant topics, textbook navigation, and emphasising the importance of practice.


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Investec takes its Promaths programme to the next level under lockdown

By Mahlatse Nicolas Mmako and Setlogane Manchidi

Promaths by Investec, which provides extra maths and science tuition for learners in previously disadvantaged communities from grades 10 to 12, was first launched in 2005, in partnership with the Kutlwanong Maths, Science and Technology Centre and the Department of Basic Education (DBE). Today, the programme operates a total of 16 centres (eight of these directly funded by Investec) in six provinces, reaching thousands of learners who show potential in these subjects. 

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Counting the cost of lost schooling in South Africa

In attempting to examine possible learning deficits experienced by South African learners due to the COVID19 Lockdown, Vijay Reddy (Distinguished Research Specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council) applied research undertaken in Belgium to the data available on the 2019 South African TIMSS study results. Based on her research, the findings indicated that it is likely that, had learners taken the TIMSS test last year, their maths results would have regressed to 2015 levels.

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Covid-19 Disruption Could be a Chance to lay a Firmer School Maths Foundation in South Africa

Focusing on core concepts and identifying what learners need to know but may have missed or forgotten could help to get school children back on track once the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic has passed, according to this August 2020 article. A carefully designed curriculum could help to address learners’ difficulties with whole numbers, fractions, negative numbers, introductory algebra, linear patterns and functions.

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Maths program to help pupils, teachers to be rolled out by education venture

In order to assist South African learners in improving their poor mathematics output,  Headstart Education has partnered with Splashlearn to provide all teachers with a free subscription to their international digital maths program. With the COVID19 lockdown having caused so many learners to miss valuable school time, Headstart believes that they will benefit greatly from the extra resources provided by this programme. The programme is currently used by more than 40 million children in over 150 countries.



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Maths Teachers in South Africa: Case Study Shows What’s Missing

Research shows that a shortage of competent and qualified mathematics teachers is a key contributing factor to the low maths performance of South African school children, according to this June 2020 article. The shortage has also led to thousands of South African schools dropping maths as a subject.

Further reading on mathematics teaching in South Africa:


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Mathematics is not a difficult subject – it just seems that way

In this article, Neptal Khoza, Head of Corporate Social Investment at Capitec, comments on South Africa's poor matric maths results. He emphasises the importance of maths in daily life and says that we need to give our children that important key towards a better future. He says that there is a need to encourage pupils to take up STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) subjects and, if they don't , our country runs the risk of having a large proportion of youth that are ill-equipped to meet the skills-demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.


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‘Maths anxiety’ causing fear and despair in children as young as six

"Children as young as six feel fear, rage and despair as a result of “mathematics anxiety”, a condition which can cause physical symptoms and behaviour problems in class, according to a study. Pupils in both primary and secondary school can find themselves locked in a cycle of despair, suffering from anxiety which harms their maths performance, which in turn leads to increased anxiety. Researchers say maths anxiety should be treated as a “real concern” because of the damage it does to a child’s learning."

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Play Africa launches ’I am a scientist’ exhibition in Soweto to promote Stem learning through play

More than 7 500 children will take part in Play Africa’s “I am a Scientist” educational programme, which launched in Soweto from 17 - 21 May 2021. In its promotion of STEM subjects, the travelling exhibition bridges opportunity gaps and promotes equitable outcomes. The programme was initiated by American Multinational, 3M, in partnership with NPO, Play Africa. The exhibition will travel to disadvantaged schools throughout Gauteng until August 2021, with the hope of encouraging many learners to pursue further education and careers in STEM.


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Maths and science: when to intervene

Research by Trialogue indicates that half of corporate social investment (CSI) is spent on education. But where should it be targeted for maximum return on investment? Maths and science is often backed at further education training (FET) level, with mixed results. 

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Why do South African students fare worse at maths than their counterparts in other countries?

Jacques Verster (Doctoral candidate at the Centre for International Teacher Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology) did a qualitative case study to try and understand why South African students fare so badly in Maths and Science  when compared to most other countries. His focus for the study was on the one-year Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course with a maths focus. Jacques's findings suggest that there is a shortage of competent and qualified maths teachers in South Africa - and this is a definite contributor towards learner's poor performance in the subject.


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Liberty: Supporting maths and science

Liberty started supporting the Kutlwanong Centre for Maths, Science and Technology in 2013. It supports two centres – Ponego Centre in Katlehong (Gauteng) and Sibusisiwe Centre in Umbumbulu (KwaZulu-Natal). As this case study shows, Liberty supports initiatives that follow a lifelong trajectory, targeting each life stage of a learner with the aim of improving their performance in mathematics, physical science and literacy.

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Half of all matriculants who write maths fail it each year

Only 53.8% of the 233 315 matrics who wrote the maths exam in 2020 were able to obtain the 30% and above pass mark. Maths is classified as a gateway subject, meaning that it is considered critical to both the economy and development.  It is clear that specific maths teaching interventions are neccesary in order for learners to gain the expertise that they need to manage the complex problems that they face in the exams.

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SA pupils still bottom of the global class in maths and science

This 2020 article discusses the results of the global 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), where South Africa continues to be one of the lower peforming countries in the maths and science results of grade 5 and 9 learners.

Further reading: 


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What Maths Researchers Learnt From the Mistakes Made by Pupils in ‘Top’ South African Schools

The Wits Maths Connect Secondary project, a research and development project at the University of the Witwatersrand, shows that pupils from both more affluent and less advantaged schools have difficulty with introductory algebra. Tweaks to curriculum design could acknowledge that some topics are more difficult to learn than others, and thus need more time and continual attention throughout the year.

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