Mathematics is not a difficult subject– it just seems that way
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Less than 2.2% of South Africa’s matrics pass with over 80% in maths while over half pass with just 30%. This is according to Neptal Khoza, Head of Corporate Social Investment at Capitec.
“Maths is life. It’s crucial to advancement. It allows us to be creative and think critically. Just as there are infinite numbers, there are infinite innovations we can unlock, with maths. We need to give our children that key.
“Mastering financial literacy can help improve quality of life and empower more people to be economically active. This lightens the burden on our government,” said Khoza.
Khoza said there was a growing need to encourage pupils to take up Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) subjects. He said if not the country risked having a huge number of young people who could not meet the skills demand of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The 2019 TIMSS ranked South African grade 9 pupils last for maths and science. There is also a decline in the number of grade 12 pupils writing and passing the subject.
“We must act. Maths unlocks innovation and entrepreneurship. It gives our young people the power to start their own businesses and solve our shared problems,” he said.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the inaugural Kagiso Trust Mathematics Symposium discussed "Mathematics for the 21st century and beyond: Improving mathematics teaching and learning".
Dr Khangelani Sibiya, who was named the 2019 Global Teacher of the year, said there was a stigma that maths is a difficult subject.
Sibiya has created his own creative strategies to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics.
"What I do when I teach is I get the learners to write their choices for their careers. I allow them to go up to three choices and then we discuss requirements. If one wants to be a doctor, we must discuss on the first day what levels in what subjects you need to do that. If you want to be a doctor, you need an A in mathematics. This assists them when they are studying so they know what they must achieve to realise their goals," he said.
One of Sibiya’s methods was using fashionable youth hand greetings to show them the concepts of parallel and perpendicular.
"I relate my teaching to soccer. The sign for Mamelodi Sundowns, for example, is a seven. What angle is there, the 90 degrees? From that, I can apply Pythagoras theory. The sign of Orlando Pirates is crossed arms. There is mathematics there," said Sibiya.
Dr Kabelo Chuene, the Professor of Mathematics at the University of Limpopo, said that there was a gap between teachers teaching and learners learning.
"We don't study the thing we do (teach). We need to analyse what happened during class and reflect on that. Do we teach teachers that analysis is important and incorporate it into our programmes? If we don't, how do they improve?”