School experts have warned this year’s matric results could drop as many Grade 12 teachers in state schools struggle to prepare pupils to write a compulsory section on Euclidean geometry and probability for the first time.
Euclidean maths, formerly included in the maths curriculum before being thrown out by the Basic Education Department in 2008, involves the properties of shapes.
It dates back to Greek mathematician Euclid’s theories of circles and triangles in 300BC.
Providing proof in the answers is a strong element of the content, which required a thorough understanding by teachers, said Wits University maths education expert Lynn Bowie.
The content was reintroduced in 2010 when universities warned that matriculants signing up for engineering and related courses were not coping because they had no knowledge of Euclidean concepts.
This year all Grade 12 pupils will write two maths papers that will include the concepts, which were previously tested in the optional maths paper three.
Basic Education Department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said that with the implementation of the new Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement , in 2012 in Grade 10, the teaching and testing of both learning areas was compulsory.
So the current Grade 12 class would be tested in these learning areas in both maths papers this year.
But Bowie said teachers had not been teaching it because they didn’t know much about it.
“Kids will struggle. They should have introduced to this more gently. It is a fairly big chunk of the curriculum.
“Unfortunately, there is such a focus on results in this country. I am afraid that the pass rate will plummet this year.
“They are going to have to think carefully how they examine it,” said Bowie. Speaking to The Mercury on Friday, Nkosinathi Sishi, head of the KwaZulu-Natal Education Department, said the Grade 12 exam timetable was changed to improve maths education.
He said maths experts had been lobbying for the change, arguing that elements of maths paper three were important for all pupils, and that for pupils not to be examined in Euclidian geometry was devaluing the currency of maths.
Basil Manuel, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa president, said teachers were not ready for the change.
“I seriously doubt we have the requisite number of teachers able to teach this. We have to ask what the department has done to prepare teachers, to ensure they are ready.
“We have all known this was coming for the past three years. The department is so results-focused, but I think at the end of this year they are going to come unstuck.”
He said in his experience teachers who did not understand sections of the curriculum just “skipped it”.
“They pretend it doesn’t exist.”
Westville Boys’ High School headmaster Trevor Hall agreed that teachers needed to be well prepared to teach the subject.
“We don’t agree it is more difficult than other maths content and believe it should not affect pass rates provided the sections are taught properly.”
He warned that results-focused schools could channel matric pupils to softer options.
“I think it is going to create some panic. These schools might be channelling their pupils into maths literacy,” he said.
National Teachers Union deputy president Allen Thompson said schools were going to take the “easier route”, which defeated the imperative to produce competent maths and science pupils able to excel at university. - The Mercury