Maths In SA – A Fundamental Problem

Math… a word that I personally despised with all my heart when I was at school. A lot of learners today, can’t even deal with fractions, algebra, geometry and all the lingo that goes together with that. The fact of the matter is that Math is an integral part of the foundation phase of learning. Mathematics has a number of very useful benefits to our mind if we go into its study. It develops our reasoning, helps us to have analytical thinking, quickens our mind, generates practicality and also its use can be applied in the day-to-day. One thing that every child needs to learn is how to manage finances, and what better than good old numbers and word problems to save the day!

Unfortunately, South Africa is a country that struggles exceptionally when it comes to the Math pass rate. A 2015/16 survey conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) showed that our country ranked 138 out of 140 countries in the quality of maths and science education. This leads us to the all-important question what the standard of education is being offered by our government?

There are many possible reasons why learners might not perform well in Mathematics in Grade 9 or even during the whole of their senior phase. Unlike in other subjects, a weakness in one area of Math usually causes difficulties in other areas too. In Mathematics, good algebraic skills and understanding of numbers are crucial to every part of the curriculum. This means that, during senior phase, learners must build all the skills they will need for their FET Mathematics learning.
In 2011, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study showed that South African learners have the lowest performance among all 21 middle-income countries that participated. Results of diagnostic tests carried out by maths tutoring service Brighter Futures with over 8000 high school learners in 2017 and this year showed that concepts such as multiplication from as early as Grade 3 are not being properly mastered.
So how can we expect our children to do well in a complex subject when things go wrong so early? Improvements in Mathematics have to come from the department, the school and the teacher – but parents and learners would do well to put in some extra effort too. Learners need to participate in their learning journey by asking questions and identifying when they are struggling; they need to be committed to practising Maths questions. There is no such thing as an irrelevant question. Help lay the foundations right by walking side by side with your child and making Math exciting again!

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