'Don't give up on maths': Why mathematics is critical in high school

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"Not everyone is entirely maths-geared, but she says tutoring can play a huge role." Photo: Getty Images
"Not everyone is entirely maths-geared, but she says tutoring can play a huge role." Photo: Getty Images

Looking at the 2020 matric examinations results we see that only 125 526 out of almost 600 000 students achieved 60% or more for mathematics.

This is a concern, as Mathematics is critical for successful applications to various higher education options, and vital in many career paths that lead to a country's economic development and growth. 

Even though the minimum pass rate for mathematics is 30%, only a fraction of students achieved it.

Gerda van der Merwe has 50 years of teaching experience and an author of YouCanDoMaths, an online Maths tutoring platform with her husband Peter.

She explains to News24 that many students struggling with mathematics turn to Mathematical Literacy as an easy option, even though that later limits their study and vocational opportunities.

She says that grappling with mathematics can be rectified with the proper support and help, and that maths needs to be practised throughout the year, not just in exam time. 

She adds that only attending maths classes at school is often not enough time for most learners to grasp critical concepts. "Many would benefit from extra time to revise lessons and absorb fundamental theories at their own pace," van der Merwe stresses.

Read: Mathematics with Nqayiya makes top 10 at the Junior Chamber International SA awards 2021

Because the world is changing, Van der Merwe says that today's high school graduates will be expected to have a firm grip on coding, robotics, AI (artificial intelligence) and advanced technologies as these learning areas are vital nowadays.

She says that all those learning areas stem from mathematical principles such as calculus, statistics, and algebra.

Van der Merwe says that students who do not have a good mathematics pass could be significantly disadvantaged down the road, and with the unemployment figures shooting through the roof in our country this is not to be taken lightly.

Although enhancing mathematical skills development at school is not enough to address the major issue facing our country right now, unemployment, it can help.

Maths skills are going to be more in demand than ever going into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a technological revolution that will fundamentally change the way we live, work, and relate to one another, but we as a country are simply not ready to meet the demand, she stresses. 

Van der Merwe believes that education is a process, not an event. She says this applies to mathematics and builds on previous knowledge, adding that learners need time to absorb and reinforce concepts.

"You CAN do maths, but don't leave it until the 11th hour to get help", she stresses.

Van der Merwe believes that getting a better foundation of maths from the start leaves the pupil to achieve more than the minimum expected pass rate as 30% doesn't guarantee students a university or other tertiary education placement.

Yes, not everyone is entirely maths-geared, but she says tutoring can play a huge role in understanding, and success.

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