Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Maths Identity project helps primary school learners with mathematic reasoning and stimulates positive attitude towards mathematics.
The project, aimed at engaging 80 Mathematics Education final year students in a school environment, is another example of how SU is an engaged teaching and learning hub that supports its students in developing the graduate attributes as set by the University.
Led by Dr Erna Lampen, a lecturer in the Department of Curriculum Studies at the SU Faculty of Education, the maths project has engaged with over 500 school learners since its inception in the year 2017.
“The project was inspired by the plight of Grade 8 learners being promoted with extremely low marks. To ease this, we started this project and started working with a group of 80 final year students who engage with learners from Grade 4 to 7.”
“In this project we focus our attention on the learners’ attitudes, engagement and reasoning in mathematics. The earlier learners understand that mathematics is not only about marks, the better the engagement and in that way their attitudes toward the subject changes. We want learners to know that maths is also about intellectual engagement – our learners need to know that engaging and asking questions in class can yield better marks,” she says.
Lampen says she believes primary school learners should awake to mathematics – that is become mathematical thinkers – hence the focus on building identity as mathematical thinkers.
According to Lampen, the project is about teaching final year students the right way of responding to learner reasoning in ways that promote engagement and agency as part of their academic work. “We have worked with AF Louw Primary School from 2017–2018, and before lockdown we were working with Laerskool Cloetesville,” she says.
“We want to equip our final year students with the skills to notice and take up learner reasoning in the classroom. Our final year students are required to learn to listen intently and interpret what the learner has to say,” adds Lampen.
She says although it has been a challenge for one lecturer to monitor the students’ engagements, the schools have been appreciative and cooperative for the support.
Lampen says this project was born out of her passion for mathematics, “My research interests are within the broader field of pre- service teacher education, with particular focus on aspect of learner and teacher engagements in problem centred mathematics.
According to Lampen, it is essential for the teacher to be able to notice and respond to learner reasoning, and developing conceptual teacher talk specifically in the content areas of geometry and statistics.