The UFS Family Math programme advocates innovative Mathematics teaching and learning, by utilising a hands-on approach and activity material to improve understanding and changing attitudes towards Mathematics in the Foundation- and Intermediate Phase. During the “triangular” project strategy teachers are trained at the UFS and apart from integrating the project activities into the national curriculum it is also expected from them to conduct parents’ training sessions at their respective schools in the local community. This enables parents to become involve in their children’s Mathematics teaching and learning at school.
What skills and resources were you able to draw from the community for this project?
The programme mainly utilises and invests in the human capital available in local communities. The potential of the teachers to become “leaders in the community” and their enthusiasm towards “professional development” as well as their “understanding of local circumstances” are invaluable in implementing the programme. Parallel to this is the urge of parents for “lifelong learning” during parent training sessions and subsequent involvement in their children’s learning at school. The availability of school premises and the fact that the participating schools took ownership of the programme resulted into the establishment of a “non-formal community centre”. The involvement of the relevant Department of Basic Education officials contributes towards the successful roll out of the programme. The investment of funders, especially local funders, is indispensable for project implementation.
Teachers lacking the necessary content knowledge as well as teaching skills, shortages or no teaching resources at school or at home, the lack of parent involvement and the language of learning and teaching that differs from home languages are prevalent in many South African primary schools, especially in the rural areas. The Family Math programme intend to address all these issues, critical to effective Mathematics teaching and learning.
Addressing the challenges
In order to promote a collaborative approach to address the issues at hand the teachers, parents and learners from a particular community are included in a “triangular” project strategy. During this strategy teachers are trained at the University of the Free State with the focus on subject content knowledge and teaching skills, making use of a hands-on approach and teaching resources that are of a household nature and easy to replace. Apart from integrating the project activities into the school curriculum it is also expected from the teachers to conduct training sessions with the parents of their learners’ in the Family Math activities at their respective schools in the local community. This enables parents to become involve in their children’s Mathematics teaching and learning at school. One of the key elements of the success of the project is the fact that the Science-for-the-Future also manufactures and issues the participating teachers with sufficient activity material like manipulatives and other activity material to be utilised in the classroom and during parents training sessions.
Apart from professional development of teachers and the academic success in the classroom, the programme contributed immensely towards parent (and guardian) involvement in the schooling of their children. The latter should be considered within the context of many illiterate and unemployed community members. More than 98% of all Family Math teachers being trained at the UFS are female and from predominately disadvantaged communities and they are enabled with mathematics content and teaching methodology to become leaders in the workplace. Many of them are involved in Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) where they share their experience with fellow-teachers. They are also becoming respected leaders in the community because they organize and conduct Family Math parent workshops. Since 90% of the attendees of the Family Math parent training sessions are women the impact of the Family Math programme stretched far beyond its original intention of Mathematics teaching and learning, it also empowered women from all over the spectrum, mothers, grannies, aunts and sisters. The success of the programme is also reflected in its growth since inception in 2009. More than 30 000 teachers, learners, parents, subject advisors and parents participated in the programme activities during 201.