Using print and digital resources to teach mathematics in South Africa

South Africa has an ongoing issue with the teaching and learning of mathematics. A University of Stellenbosch study in 2012 found that only 58% of grade 6 learners were functionally numerate, stating “at least a quarter of children have learnt so little in six years of formal full-time schooling that they have not even mastered functional literacy or numeracy”. The Department of Basic Education’s statistics shows that only 3% of grade nine learners got over a 50% average in mathematics. The problem is complex; factors include a poor grounding in numeracy in the Foundation Phase years, coupled with some teachers who are not comfortable with the subject. While in no ways a maths expert, I’ve been working on a digital and print blended maths product for the past year, which I hope could add to the resources teachers can draw on to assist learners understanding mathematical concepts. 

The Study & Master Maths Online Workbooks integrate a print book with targeted practice exercise and an online mathematics teaching and learning platform to improve understanding of critical mathematical topics. A recent report by the UNESCO Working Group on Education states that blending traditional off-line education approaches with digital applications appears to be a more successful approach to digital learning, with activities that involve engaging with physical resources proving effective in a wide variety of contexts.

The workbooks:

  • Are full-colour with diagrams and illustrations 
  • Provide additional exercises for all topics in the CAPS curriculum
  • Indicate where complementary content is available on the online platform

The online platform:

  • is aligned to the CAPS-curriculum, covering all required topics
  • Content is presented in lessons with easy to understand examples and relevant images
  • Widgets provide an alternative and engaging exploration of essential concepts 
  • Interactive walkthroughs take the learner through steps involved in completing an activity
  • Assessment exercises provide instant feedback to the learner  
  • A mathematics dictionary explains terminology clearly and simply
  • Mathematics games allow users to learn while they play

So how then can a teacher incorporate the digital assets into their teaching?

The widgets are interactive components that illustrate a topic or concept and can be shown on a whiteboard for whole-class teaching or a learner could come to the front of the class to manipulate the widget on an interactive whiteboard or the computer linked to a data projector. Widgets are an especially useful tool for students who learn kinetically or visually.

Cambridge HOTmaths games are based on sound mathematical learning to provide good maths practice while engaging students using online mathematics learning resources. Students can use the games individually, or they can be projected onto a whiteboard for a whole class task.

The lesson notes and step-by-step walkthroughs of problems are ideal tools for learners studying individually. Walkthrough problems take students through a problem with feedback at each step and are a great supplement to the lesson notes that help students to gain a basic understanding of concepts and show them how to set out the working for a problem. Being an online mathematics learning resource, they can be accessed at any time, allowing learners to learn at their own pace and level.

The Test Generator allows teachers to create customised tests from the bank of questions within the Cambridge HOTmaths site. Learners can complete the lesson questions, topic quizzes and tests online and assessment tasks can be completed in a classroom, computer laboratory, or at home.

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