There is a clear and consistent message given every year, and it is appearing again in our media: Teachers need help to overcome the barrier of low performance in mathematics – yet again.
It does seem that it just goes on and on and on. Why is it that this country cannot pull itself together in the direction of a steady improvement in mathematics education and standards?
Perhaps we are missing something crucial.
How often have we read about how our maths teachers cannot pass assessments provided for their learners?
A TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) Maths assessment paper released in 2019 showed that South Africa, for Grade 5 ranked 56th out of 58 countries and for Grade 9, 38th out of 39 countries. That is shocking but something we seem to have grown accustomed to. And it hasn’t changed much since then.
What do we do about it and where do we need to focus our attention?
Consider that one can only teach up to their own competency level. So if teachers’ competency levels are not adequate, how do we bring them up?
The first is the recognition of lack of competency.
This is the watershed moment when we realize that the majority of teachers teaching maths in our schools barely passed the subject at school themselves.
How can one teach a subject one did not gain full understanding over?
So if a teacher teaching maths now passed their own Grade 12 maths with, say 60% we would consider that pretty good and give them a “Well Done” and carry on. Right?
Right! And off they go to Teacher Training College, become maths teachers and after a period of time, their passion is gone and the marks recorded by their learner cohort are kind of below par. They just cannot raise their learners over the 60% mark, or lower.
But that’s OK, because the pass mark is so low they obviously passed!
But would you get on an aircraft to London when the pilot passed his landing exam with 60%. Not on your life, right?
So the missing ingredient, the elephant in the room, is that we put NO attention on that percentage of maths the teacher FAILED when at school and thus they come into teaching with a HUGE hole of their own MISUNDERSTANDING and because they cannot think with that clearly, they CANNOT educate their learners perfectly in UNDERSTANDING clearly what they don’t understand!
So, the solution is a focus on teachers and their ability to recover their own understanding FAST and bring that ability to class and pass it on to learners. The amazing thing is that it works, every time and that is why what the My Maths Buddy Projects do is so effective.
We owe it to ourselves, our family, friends and community and yes, the whole of our society to get our maths results UP and learners winning. We can do it if we focus on the real reason teachers get teaching fatigue. And that is they consistently fail to help because they are not given the effective tools to do so.
Time to change that!