Improving teaching of maths and science is top priority

2010-12-30 14:27

Year-end is always a time of sadness for me, as I review the matric results with disappointment.

I pray that this year will be different; that there will be something for me to celebrate.

I constantly hope to see improvements in the maths, science and technology (MST) results, and every year my hopes are shattered.

I’ve often asked myself whether the problem is that pupils are unwilling to learn, or that teachers are unable to teach.

Do pupils not realise that they have the power to direct their lives, or do they simply lack the skills and ambition to do so?

The brilliance in the design and purpose of the new curriculum makes MST interesting and exciting, and yet teachers and pupils alike are not familiar with even the basics of these subjects.

Research has been conducted and phenomenal international research exists on how children learn and how children fail; inspiring strategy documents have come from the department of education.

This research concludes that the learning competency in children is highly underestimated.

They all have the ability to understand the subject content if it is explained to them effectively.

After studying this research, I feel I have found the key to the problem – the classroom.

I have come to the shocking conclusion that teachers do not understand the power they have – the power within themselves and the power of their subjects.

They may not be able to change pupils’ living conditions, but they can change their futures, through education.

I challenge each teacher to harvest their power and take responsibility in the classroom.

The goal of each teacher should be to create an inspiring and creative classroom this year.

This can only be done by starting with the basics – well-established classroom routines, minimal task disruption and comfortable seating.

You may ask where you will get this furniture from. Well, speak to me.

Once you have the basics, you can begin to build on that foundation and create a classroom that is conducive to the optimal learning experience.

To do so, there are four crucial organisational tasks that must be completed daily:
»?Organise the content into a lesson plan that clearly aims to achieve the objectives that have been set.

»?Create a task sheet in which pupils take responsibility for the resources available: handing out textbooks, collecting of worksheets and distributing pencils. Make them responsible for the cleanliness of the classroom. In this way, you can ensure that every student is learning during every minute of every lesson. This makes it easier to engage pupils, as their minds are not given the opportunity to wander.

»?Ensure that you are always learning. Expand on your current skills base and develop new ones. Often teachers themselves lack the basic skills required to teach their subjects. The better you know your subject, the more pupils will listen to you.

»?Use innovative methods of teaching: let pupils use their phones to achieve lesson objectives, for example.
Every school should have regular and structured staff meetings to plan for the management of teaching, learning and assessment of the MST curriculum as a priority.

When it comes to maths and science, pupils need to have fun. Traditionally, maths and science are known as subjects to be feared. Content should be arranged in such a way that by the end of this year pupils will know maths and science as friendly but essential tools that can be used to improve their opportunities for a rich and successful future.

It is a language of the mind which develops thinking skills, providing an advantage in life. The only way this attitude can be developed is if each and every lesson is vibrant, with a clear demonstration of the specific standard and quality of work that is expected.

»?As the national executive director for the Maths Centre since 1995, Shan is responsible for the implementation, planning, monitoring and evaluation of maths and science projects throughout the nine provinces of South Africa. Funded by 29 donors, Maths Centre runs 28 projects in conjunction with previously disadvantaged schools, teachers and pupils.

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