High School teachers are being upskilled to prevent the decline in Mathematics in South Africa

Learning about Mathematics is more than just learning to calculate numbers. Mathematics at school level develops children’s cognitive skills, their ability to abstract and think logically, and to think critically and solve problems across all areas of life.

In South Africa, a worrying trend has started to emerge. Fewer learners each year choose to continue with pure maths from Grade 10 onwards and every year, the number of matriculants who pass pure maths grows smaller. In fact, “Less than 30% of all matric students take maths and only half of them pass their exams.” - Business Tech

Dropping pure maths regrettably affects learners' futures. Pure maths is required for entry into university courses like accounting and science, and without it, many students are excluded from these future career prospects. Thus, the low entry and high drop rate of pure maths negatively affect learners' career prospects, and in the bigger picture, has very negative effects on South Africa’s future. Fewer and fewer highly skilled South Africans enter the job market in careers requiring high-level mathematical skills, translating into skills shortages throughout all sectors.

In light of this, the Department of Science and Technology (DSI) has partnered with the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) to expand the Siyanqoba Olympiad Training Programme from 10 to approximately 27 centres. SAMF will partner with universities, science centres, schools, provincial education departments and other NPOs to ensure that the centres are well spread throughout the country. The programme, focusing on non-routine mathematical problem-solving skills, and will change to a blended model consisting of pre-recorded webinars and support sessions by coaches and tutors at the different centres. Starting in 2023 the Maths Learning centres will provide high school learners across the country with a weekly dose of Maths Problem Solving challenges. 

Limina Education Services is proud to be a small part of this exciting project. Limina’s team have developed a fully online training programme for the teachers, lecturers and students from the learning centres to solve non-routine mathematical problems, and coach learners in this. The first intake of this course will take place from 11 August - 29 September 2022. In future, more teachers will be invited.

The Limina Maths Problem Solving course for high school teachers was created by Alwyn Olivier, retired mathematics lecturer and Dr Erna Lampen from the University of Stellenbosch.

Dr Isabel Tarling, the founder and director of Limina, says that Limina’s online courses were designed to provide access to many South Africans who do not have access to the internet. Limina’s online learning platform is a data zero site, meaning teachers can access the content without paying high data costs. She adds: "Our learning designs chunk the modules into bite-size pieces and provide these as downloadable, off-line packages that teachers and students can download and access when they don’t have internet access. Seeing as many students and teachers can access mobile phones but not always computers, all our courses are optimised for mobile access to allow greater access for all."

This initiative will upskill more teachers, in a waterfall approach, to have a sustainable influence as its reach spreads to more learners  across South Africa. With the learning taking place at the Maths Learning Centres, we hope to see more learners, especially from remote, rural or resource-constrained areas choosing pure maths and pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and maths innovation. Perhaps in a few years, we’ll have enough engineers to keep the lights on.

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