Teaching and Learning Maths in the 21st century

Heike Verhoef - 21 Jan 22

multicolored abacus
Photo by Crissy Jarvis on Unsplash

The way mathematics is taught, learned and understood, is evolving. This was the central message at the inaugural Kagiso Trust Mathematics Symposium, held earlier in May at the University of Limpopo. The symposium, titled: Mathematics for the 21st century and beyond: Improving mathematics teaching and learning, focused on how the subject can evolve to rid itself of the stigma that maths is difficult.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we think about education. It’s opened a world of new, innovative methods of teaching and learning. From homeschooling to extra lessons and tutoring – in the past few months we’ve seen a massive migration of traditional schooling onto digital platforms.

Educators, maths professors, and scholars told the symposium that learners should be made to embrace mathematics as not only part of their school curriculum, but as an essential part of their lives in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Traditional schooling in South Africa leaves much to be desired. Moreover, Mathematics education is regarded as poor, with a yearly decline in the number of grade 12 learners that write and pass the subject. This is particularly evident in rural and disadvantaged areas.

Speakers at the symposium, however, said this need not be the case. In an ever-changing world, they agree that methods and practice of teaching and learning, as well as the need to rethink how maths is taught and perceived, is necessary. There is no need to perpetuate the stigma that mathematics is difficult!

Dr Khangelani Sibiya, who was named 2019 Global Teacher of the year, told the symposium that he employs creative strategies to improve teaching and learning of maths. Sibiya brings elements of song, physical demonstration, and even career guidance into his maths teachings, to help learners embrace the subject. By using examples of how mathematics is used in everyday life, learners are more open to exploring the subject. Maths is not simply solving for X, it’s a language we use in all areas of life.

In all of this, teachers remain the central element of the education cycle, and in this ever-changing world, their skills are increasingly evolving in innovative manners. Educators are taking on a more holistic approach to subjects that have historically been labelled ‘difficult’.

Many educators are also taking to the online space, to aid in areas where traditional schooling may be lacking. Keeping in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the ever-changing face of education - one such platform dorKk.

This digital space offers CAPS-aligned lessons in all subjects at a subscription fee starting from R149 per month. Lessons are packaged in video format and presented by qualified South African teachers. It’s the perfect digital addition to a learner’s schooling journey.

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