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UJ, MISTRA research project brings mathematics to life

South African maths pedagogy is our collective responsibility, we must forge a pedagogy of hope. We all have to look honestly at our wounded past. We all have a role to play doing the very hard and long-term work for a transformed South African maths pedagogy; these were some of the sentiments shared at the MISTRA book launch, in partnership with the Faculty of Education at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), on Thursday, 22 February 2018, at Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus.

The Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) launched its newest book, The Pedagogy of Mathematics in South Africa: Is There a Unifying Logic? The book was supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and FirstRand Foundation. The MISTRA book, edited by Paul Webb and Nicky Roberts, has chapter contributions from a range of authors from South Africa and internationally. It investigates how the pedagogy of mathematics has developed in South Africa over time and explores the extent to which it reflects our political and social history. The study also documents current approaches against local and international best practice.

“Nelson Mandela claimed education as a powerful weapon for emancipation but education has been wielded as a weapon for oppression and social exclusion. Mathematics education has been the sharp edge of that weapon,” said Prof Nicky Roberts, Deputy Project Leader and Associate Professor at the Centre for Education Practice Research, UJ.

This book on the pedagogy of mathematics goes beyond historical issues to pose crucial questions: why at all do we teach mathematics? What is the subject’s actual utility to life? And is there is a unifying logic informing our South African way of teaching mathematics?

“In seeking to answer these questions, the authors explore some of the best practices in mathematics education, both locally and internationally. They argue for possible methods of nurturing mathematical thinking amongst young people in South Africa” explains Prof Webb, Project Leader and Professor Emeritus, NMU.

The Pedagogy of Mathematics in South Africa offers an overview of key efforts in mathematics education and improvement in South Africa. It reflects on how South Africa’s colonial and apartheid past impacts on current mathematical proficiency in the country, and on social values and beliefs that relate to mathematics education and collates some relevant international case studies of national strategies to improve mathematics education systems. The book also identifies potential, state-level levers for change, which could be adapted for South Africa.

Key issues that emerged was the importance of teaching mathematics in a way that links to learners’ concrete social environment, and the necessity for joint efforts on the part of government, unions and private partners. In addition, the study argues for the importance of teachers’ developing a deeper understanding of mathematics, and of creating learners with productive mathematical identities, capable of making sense of mathematics in South Africa’s diverse languages.

The Pedagogy of Mathematics in South Africa: Is There A Unifying Logic is an important book for anyone interested in how to accelerate the slow improvements in mathematics that are underway in South Africa.

To order the book, contact Terry Shakinovsky

Mistra Group Uj
From Left to right: Prof Paul Webb, Project Leader and Professor Emeritus, NMU; Prof Nicky Roberts, Deputy Project Leader and Associate Professor at the Centre for Education Practice Research, UJ; Dr Lindiwe Tshuma, primary mathematics specialist at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences Schools Enrichment Centre (AIMSSEC) and Prof Mogege Mosimege, Professor in the Department School of Mathematics Natural Sciences and Technology Education, University of Free State (UFS).


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