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Maths Connect (s) for five more years

- By Vivienne Rowland

 The marking of five years of excellence turned into a bigger cause for celebration when one of South Africa’s biggest banking institutions renewed its sponsorship commitment for another five years.

The Wits Maths Connect Secondary (WMCS) project has reached this incredible milestone and celebrated it by recognising the latest group of graduates on the Transition Maths 2 Course for their hard work.

The professional development courses for teachers are offered by the WMCS project, situated in the Wits School of Education and led by Professor Jill Adler, holder of the First Rand Foundation-National Research Foundation Chair in Mathematics Education.

In 2012 two Transition Maths courses were introduced. Transition Maths 1 addresses the transition from Grade 9 to Grade 10 mathematics while Transition Maths 2 addresses the transition from school mathematics to university mathematics. Through these courses and other initiatives of the project, Professor Adler and her team seek to develop and research models of professional development that will improve teachers’ mathematical knowledge and teaching expertise, and ultimately improve learner performance.

Postdoctoral, doctoral and masters fellows are part of this team and have worked at the research and development interface that has been a cornerstone of the project’s success.

Sizwe Nxasana, the Chief Executive Officer of First Rand Limited, renewed the First Rand Foundation’s funding commitment for another five years, and said that the First Rand Foundation supports initiatives and programmes such as the Wits Maths Connect Secondary project.

“We believe there are people out there who will design innovations that will address the challenges that we are facing as a country – be it resources, teachers and the quality of teaching teachers – and develop an education system that we can all be proud of,” said Nxasana.

“We hope that we can continue the support as the First Rand Foundation and we are pleased to extend our support for the Maths Chair at Wits for another five years. The programme has shown positive results over the last five years,” said Nxasana.

Listen to Nxasana.

The First Rand Foundation has been one of the key drivers of the Mathematics Education Chairs initiative, along with the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

The 16 teachers from seven schools who received their certificates at the ceremony, teach mainly in Grades 10 to 12, and have worked hard since February 2014. The schools they represent are Eqinisweni Secondary School, Jules High School, Minerva Secondary School, Tsosoloso Ya Afrika Secondary School, Kwabhekilanga Secondary School, Sandringham High School and Tswelopele Secondary School.

Since the inception of the programme five years ago, 55 teachers have completed a Transition Maths course, with six teachers completing both courses. WMCS has worked closely with Roedean School on the Transition Maths 2 course.

“The criteria for successful completion of the courses are high,” said Dr Craig Pournara, project manager of the WMCS. “For some teachers on the course, this is part of the journey in preparing them for teaching senior classes, and we hope many of the teachers will work with us again in the next phase of the project.” 

“Teachers speak of the growth in their personal knowledge of mathematics and teaching, and of their increased confidence, but they are also clearly focused on how their learning will impact their learners,” said Pournara.

This commitment is reflected in the project’s study of learning gains made by Grade 10 learners in five schools. Results show that learners taught by teachers who have completed a Transition Maths course outperformed a control group.

Phase 2 of the WMCS project will include research possibilities for the expansion of the reach of the Transition Maths courses, and the complimentary lesson study in schools.

Read more about the previous TM course graduates here and here and about the project research.