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BARRIERS TO LEARNING SCHOOL VISITS: What I have learnt

- 14 July 2017

This year at GMSAF we started Barriers to learning Program. We are conducting a workshop for teachers and parents. I am doing school visits to those schools that we are working with. The purpose of classroom visits is to observe the teachers doing their lessons with their learners in small group teaching.

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GM South Africa FoundationInitiative for Curriculum Excellence

Mathematical Reasoning

Mathematical Reasoning

In many schools in South Africa educators teach mathematics to learners in a language that is neither their home language nor the home language of the learners. In the majority of schools English is the language of choice for the Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT) and this choice is seen to be among the reasons for poor learner achievement in Mathematics. The teaching strategies presented in the Mathematical Reasoning Short Learning Programme draw on a study conducted by Lyn Webb in which she explores the links between second language learning and the learning of mathematics. Her study promotes "the use of dialogue in the learner and teacher’s main language, together with code-switching, to promote easy communication in order to improve learners’ mathematical and reasoning skills through social interaction”.(Page 18 Searching for common ground: developing mathematical reasoning through dialogue. Lynette Webb April 2010)

It was decided for the purposes of the short learning programme to focus on word problems as a trigger for developing both the language of mathematics and the language of learning and teaching. Word problems have largely been ignored by teachers due to the difficulty experienced by learners in understanding the questions and applying the mathematical knowledge and thinking skills required to solve the problems. However, according to Steve Cooke, "Word problems have been and continue to be a significant element of children’s experience of learning mathematics in the UK and in many nationsacross the world. Perhaps more importantly they also often constitute, in one form or another, a part of the assessment process for both primary and secondary pupils not only in school ‘in house’ progress tests but also in national ‘public examinations”. (Issues in Mathematics Education, Assignment 4: Reporting on a small scale study: relating theory and practice. Steve Cooke. August 2012)

With the introduction of the Annual National Assessments (ANAs) in 2011 and the very poor results achieved by learners in literacy and numeracy it is very clear that the expectations that learners can read and understand word problems are far from being met. The mathematical reasoning short learning programme aims to introduce teachers to teaching strategies which will support learners learning through their first additional language to deal successfully with the challenges they face as long as word problems remain a significant part of the mathematics curriculum and a part of the ANAs to be administered yearly.

Click here to access the publications for this project

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