"A few nights ago, I took my 7-year-old daughter out for dinner at our favorite Mediterranean restaurant. After examining the menu, we decided to order a whole sea bass to split among us. It’s become something of a tradition to order an entire fish when we go to this restaurant. It’s not just because we love seafood (and we do). It’s because I love watching my daughter turn dinner into an experiment. She’ll dissect the fish, examine its bones and pick out the eyeball. Little does she know, she’s doing science.
As a cognitive scientist myself, I’d be happy if my daughter chose to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or math and helped close the persistent gender gap that exists in STEM fields. But I also know that how I talk to her about science — and the science we do together — impacts how she feels about the subject, even when that science is informal in nature."
"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."
"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. They also point out it may be contributing to a growing maths crisis in the UK, where the level of adult numeracy is relatively low and getting worse."
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.
This article from 2012 explained how recruitment and training of teachers in the critical subjects was set to improve, thanks to an initiative by the Department of Basic Education in partnership with the Independent Schools Association of South Africa (ISASA) and Investec.
"A Report on a quasi-experimental study examining the learning gains of Grade 10 learners from five secondary schools in the Johannesburg area, whose teachers participated in a year-long professional development course aimed at improving the teachers' knowledge of mathematics for teaching."
This article illuminates the tensions that exist in South Africa, between locally responsive mathematics education interventions, aimed at tailoring initiatives to vastly unequal contexts of schooling, and the systemic “one size fits all” interventions of the state.
The data suggests that the pool of matriculants who wrote mathematics is small and not strong.
Over the past five years significantly less than 50% of the matric final exam writers wrote mathematics as a subject.
Of the 11 top subjects, mathematics is consistently the lowest performing.
In 2018, out of a total of 270,516 mathematics writers, 37% passed with 40% and above. The percentage pass has been consistently between 30 and 35%.
Out of the total mathematics writers, 5828 passed with distinction (80% or above) which is only 2.6% of mathematics writers. -This creates a very small pool for universities
From this very small pool universities then compete to attract and retain this highly talented students. How well are they doing? Data collected on the past three years performance (2015-2017) of an entry level mathematics course in one of South Africa’s selective universities shows a sobering reality: those who come in with a National Senior Certificate mathematics mark of 90% and above pass the course (with an average mean of 64%). Those who entered with a score below 90%, fail the course.
"Initial results from the inclusion of this technology in South African classrooms has led to positive development in learner behaviour and attitude with 70% of learners indicating that the addition of VR to their syllabi would motivate them to take science and maths related subjects in the future. In addition, 98% stated that learning these subjects through VR has increased their confidence in their abilities.”
Education and Technology are fast becoming firm allies in changing the relationship between teacher and student in the classroom; but how effective are these forces in communities with limited internet infrastructure? Andrew Einhorn left a career in investment banking to tackle this very issue. Here, he shares his story of why a learned love for mathematics is not just cool, but an imperative for youth empowerment. The chronic lack of opportunity for youth in South Africa, he argues starts with the poor or often non existent education system. For example, in 24 out of 25 cases, a South African child will leave school without a foundation in maths, shutting them out of countless career opportunities.
Learn more about his work to bring Khan Academy to South Africa here: www.numeric.org
South African impact investor, E2 Investments (E2) is investing R4.6 million in the non-profit social enterprise, Numeric, which delivers after-school mathematics to thousands of learners in South African primary schools. E2's investment will go towards sponsoring classrooms, building capacity within the organisation, as well as their potential expansion into other provinces. Over three years, this funding will enable 325 learners a year / 975 children to complete the programme and develop a strong foundation in maths, thereby equipping them for life-long success.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2017/18 ranks the quality of the country’s primary education 116th out of 137 countries. The quality of the higher education and training system is ranked 114th while the quality of maths and science education is placed in 128th position.
Will South Africa still be in a position to undo the structural damage caused by a dysfunctional education system in ten or 20 years from now?
In the meantime, as South Africans gear up for significant tax hikes to be introduced in the upcoming budget, there is a silent “tax” quietly finding its way into the homes of many South Africans. It is the cost of providing a quality education.
A Bradford primary school wants the world to know its newfound Sats success is down to giving all children up to six hours of music a week. At Feversham, the headteacher, Naveed Idrees, has embedded music, drama and art into every part of the school day, with up to six hours of music a week for every child, and with remarkable results. In maths, the school was 2.4 points behind the national average in 2011 and is now 6.5 above it. Its results for disadvantaged pupils are well above average.
Consistent underperformance in maths and science will not go away, making it a critical public policy matter that needs immediate attention and innovative solutions. It is all the more urgent considering that SA has ambitions to become a developmental state such as Singapore and South Korea, whose economic miracles were founded on technical competence, beginning with an emphasis on maths and science education.
An immediate solution for SA might not be too far off, and it is incredibly simple. It entails granting foreign teachers short-term permits to work in the country. There is plenty of room to learn from top-performing countries — and others.
Every day‚ tens of thousands of school children are being taught by teachers who aren’t qualified to do the job. The result is that pupils are "not receiving the quality of teaching they’re supposed to be getting"‚ the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) admits.
With mathematics and the sciences being the subjects most affected‚ education authorities say the solution to the problem might have to come from beyond SA’s borders.
Promaths is a partnership between Investec and the Kutlwanong Centre for Maths, Science and Technology that provides extra maths and science lessons to learners in grades 10 to 12. This year, the partnership between the two companies celebrates its 12th year together.
Promaths Motherwell produced 25 distinctions in Maths and Science and two students were awarded R15 000 towards their tertiary education as they obtained more than 90% in Maths and more than an 85% overall average.
Investec head of CSI, Setlogane Manchidi, celebrated this year’s winners. “When ordinary people come together in pursuit of broader societal transformation, we can achieve the extraordinary, and tonight’s top achievers are proof of that,” he said.
The South African school maths story is well known: Our school maths performance is very poor. We are second from the bottom of the international league table, and perform worse than some fellow African countries which spend less than we do on education. Despite 22 years of investment our matric maths pass rates are not improving. Yet our Minister of Basic Education asserts that we have a “system that is on the rise”. Is that just spin? What is our school maths story?
The maths and science pass rate for matriculants improved slightly in 2016, but the quality of passes is still in question.
The 51.1% maths pass rate for 2016 was an improvement on the 49.1% achieved in 2015. The science pass rate also improved, from 58.6% in 2015 to 62% — in 2016. In both subjects males had better pass rates than females.
In maths, 89,119 pupils passed compared with the 84,297 who passed in 2015, while 1,699 more pupils passed science in 2016 than in 2015.
Outrage about a proposal to allow students to progress to the next grade with only 20% in maths is hiding a bigger problem in schools: there is a crisis in mathematics teaching and learning across all years. That’s according to education expert Elizabeth Walton, who explains why making pupils repeat a year tends to cause more harm than good. The maths pass rate controversy highlights the woeful failure by past governments to address education standards. Education is a long game, with the benefits only seen as future generations emerge ready – or unprepared – to contribute to the economy. Revelations that most South Africans have little to no ability in maths is worrying for reducing poverty levels and knocking high unemployment rates on the head. Without basic knowledge in maths, it is very hard for individuals to find employment in the formal sector. Dramatic improvements in the development of abilities in maths and other key subjects at school level are necessary to prevent the untapped talents of many in the next generation from going to waste.
In this fascinating piece, specialist in mathematics education Karin Brodie highlights how decolonising mathematics can produce considerable benefits, starting with an improvement in how learners embrace the subject. Ethnomathematics has already begun as educators try to make mathematics more broadly accessible. Brodie’s piece highlights that instead of dismissing calls for the decolonisation of South Africa’s education system, we should be having more nuanced debates about the issue and addressing how to reform teaching and learning so that it works best for the majority of people. That would be good for students and for the businesses hoping to tap into a steady stream of numerate graduates.
Educational systems must adapt to offer the same opportunities to succeed to all. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a big part of what students need to learn to get a chance at that success.
Teaching mathematics is helpful for many other skills, such as implementing mathematical logic, analytical reading of texts, arguing, validating and correcting an approach, mathematical modeling, organization and data management, project management, personal and collective finance, entrepreneurial development…
Teaching sciences and technology can help with creativity, development of a scientific culture, analytical research, logical suites (observation, questioning, experimentation, argumentation, production, practical achievements, concrete evaluation). It can also have an impact on society, through for example the protection of the environment.
The work we were doing felt arbitrary at the time, learning things not because they made us better people or well equipped, but rather because that’s just what school and the curriculum was. And that can be incredibly discouraging. Pair it with someone’s struggles to understand the concepts and it’s unsurprising that math and science gets the bad rep it does in high school. It’s unsurprising that people can be comfortable with saying “math is hard” and leaving it at that. So, looking back, I wanted to dig into why math and science is a worthwhile study regardless of whether you enter a STEM field.