Basic Education hosts Mathematics Education Indaba in Pretoria

A three-day Mathematics Education Indaba is currently underway at the Department of Education in Pretoria where the Minister, Angie Motshekga is hosting experts and stakeholders.

The purpose of the Indaba is to place the teaching and learning of Mathematics within the public schooling system boldly on the radar. There is also a need to define the set of values for the teaching and learning of Mathematics in the South African context.

Improvements in the public schooling system especially in Mathematics and Science are vital to South Africa’s future socio-economic prospects: for the learners as well as the development of the country as a whole. We owe it to the current generation and posterity to offer cutting-edge public schooling that has vastly improved learner outcomes in gateway subjects. Ours is a historical mission to bring about fundamental change in the lives of our people. Basic Education is often considered as a catalyst for such fundamental change.

The extent and depth of the problem in Mathematics Education is often underestimated in favour of reports of ‘progress’ such as the recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015. The Minister referred to the improvements we have seen in the education system in the recent TIMSS2015 results as “We have moved from ICU to the General Ward.” Meaning while we have seen improvements in the area of mathematics we still have a lot we need to accomplish before we can say we are where we should be.

This platform hopes to urgently start a discourse on what should characterise a typical South African teaching and learning practice in Mathematics.

In this regard the Minister said, “we need to use the next three days to contextualise international and regional best practices and draw lessons for South Africa. We need to reinvigorate the teaching of Mathematics in its entirety – from classrooms learning practises, content, teaching, and assessments. We must also pay particular attention to the development of a new curriculum for initial teacher education, induction and continuing professional development. In this regard, I call for the overhaul of the South African pedagogical-content knowledge outlook. We must as matter of urgency develop a South African Pedagogical Content Knowledge Framework as a starting point.”

The Minister said she does not want this to be a political talk shop but rather to begin the process of shaping the future of the Mathematics Education landscape in South Africa. The Mathematics Education community in Japan has continuously and extensively developed ‘mathematical thinking’ as an educational value. Its objectives amongst others – are to enable students to understand basic concepts and principles about numbers and quantities, and geometrical figures, and let them develop more advanced mathematical thinking and how to treat it.

In Singapore, they have adopted what is termed embedding cultural values into Mathematics instruction. This is referred to as infusing “National Education” into school subjects including Mathematics. The Singapore Mathematics syllabus (2000) states that, “National Education can be integrated into instruction by drawing examples from the prevailing national and current issues during Mathematics lessons. These examples can be expressed in the problem context during problem solving or incorporated into practical work.” As a result of the customisation of Mathematics teaching taking into account cultural nuances, Singapore tops cross-national assessments of Mathematics and Science globally.

The challenge for the National Mathematics Education Indaba being hosted by the Minister of Basic Education over the next four days is to define for ourselves the values of a South African Mathematics, and to apply these to both learning and teaching.

Source: Government of South Africa.

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