Make maths fun from the start

2014-08-11 00:00

PARENTS must lead by example by showing an interest in numeric skills before they encourage their children in mathematics, say experts.

Johann Engelbrecht, professor in maths teaching at the University of Pretoria and executive director of the SA Mathematics Foundation, said a child will be as enthusiastic about doing sums as the parents are. He said the main problem is that parents — especially mothers — place too much pressure on their children to achieve. “Maths must remain fun,” said Engelbrecht. He was reacting to a report by an inter-ministerial task team pan that investigated the national senior certificate.

The task team recommended drastic changes to matric education, including that maths be made compulsory at all schools.

Engelbrecht said the foundation said low marks in maths started early in school. “That is why we focus on early intervention at primary school, through maths competitions, games, etcetera.”

Education expert and member of the lobby group Equal Education, Graeme Bloch, agree pupils must be exposed to mathematics at a young age.

Bloch said the problem with the task team’s report is that it only looks at maths at matric, and not how early mathematics teaching must start. He said the challenge is to ensure pupils take maths.

Bloch said he did not know why a growing number of schools (286 in 2013) did not offer maths at matric, as the report found. This number is however low in about 24 000 schools.

Engelbrecht said every pupil should be able to take maths, but the lack of well-trained maths teachers posed the biggest challenge.

“We must first increase the status of a maths teacher before we will be able to solve this problem.

Engelbrecht said parents could stimulate “curiosity” in maths from an early age by asking their children:

• How would you sort this …?

• In how many ways can you ... ?

• What would happen if we …?

• How many different … can we get?

• Which are the same / which are different?

• Can you group these ... according to a characteristic?

• Do you see a pattern?

• How can the pattern help you to get the answer?

• What comes next — why?

• What will happen if we …?

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