Collaborative efforts between the Department of Education in the Northern Cape and local solar farms aim to help local learners improving their mathematics outcome.This is through the establishment of a school maths assistant support programme by the Northern Cape’s Department of Education (NCDOE) through funding by the Droogfontein Solar Power and De Aar Solar Power.The collaboration is lauded by the community as another example of how public-private partnerships can benefit local communities.The programme, which reportedly sees 30 maths assistants placed in schools around Kimberley and De Aar, aims to help learners in Gr. 4 to Gr. 6. Hlengiwe Radebe, economic development director for Droogfontein Solar Power and De Aar Solar Power, highlighted how mathematics underperformance is a concern, not only in this province, but throughout the country, as reported by Naledi Pandor, the minister of Higher Education and Training.The programme was launched last month, and the assistants received formal training by NCDOE officials. All positions were advertised locally, with a preference given to those who reside within the school’s catchment areas. Training included a range of content, including techniques on using manipulatives, administering baseline assessments, planning maths focus days and mathematics competitions, strengthening the teaching and learning of numeracy, incorporating games in mathematics and other key content areas.It forms part of the Solar Farms’ socio-economic development education programme.This includes a focus on improving numerical understanding and creating a critical awareness of how mathematical relationships are used in social, environmental, cultural and economic relations.“There has been a growing recognition of the importance of foundation years for the acquisition of mathematics skills in our schools. “A strong base is needed if children are to be ultimately successful in learning mathematics in higher grades,” said Radebe.The programme is implemented across 20 schools with two assistants implemented in some of the larger schools. Learners acquire learning deficits in their early years of schooling which snowball into larger difficulties as indicated by research. This results in learners diverting to Maths Literacy as they find it challenging to cope with pure Maths. “Learners are still bound by using concrete strategies to solve mathematical problems.“They are also dependent on rote methods without understanding, which results in an absence of flexibility and fluency with both numbers and operations,” said Radebe.Evidence suggests that a large number of South African learners have learning deficits, apparent already in the lower grades.This is the root cause of underperformance in later years. The route of these difficulties points to learners not mastering the elementary numeracy and literacy skills in the Foundation and Intermediate Phases.This again leads them to being precluded from further learning and also precluded them from engaging fully with the grade-appropriate curriculum.