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Wits Maths Connect Primary

Improving the Teaching and Learning of Maths in Primary Schools

Wits was awarded the SA Numeracy Chair as part of the Wits Maths Connect Primary project. The first incumbent is Professor Hamsa Venkat.

This project, launched in 2011, is a research and development project funded jointly by the FirstRand Foundation, Anglo American, Rand Merchant Bank and the Department of Science and Technology. It is administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF). A related project focussing on Maths in secondary schools is the Wits Maths Connect (Secondary) Project. 

Maths Connect Projects

Wits Maths Circles

Wits Maths Circles aim to get people thinking about, talking about and enjoying maths problems.

Wits Maths Circles is an initiative focused on primary mathematics teacher development through building platforms and spaces for primary teachers to work on mathematics - for themselves and for their teaching - in fun, supportive and non-threatening ways.

In 2017, through a partnership with The Teacher newspaper, maths problems that did not require any mathematical content beyond primary school mathematics were published. Teachers were encouraged to try these problems with learners, colleagues and friends. At the end of term 1 a group of teachers from different schools met to discuss the different ways people had been thinking about the problems. The problems we worked on, along with related articles are downloadable below:

Multiplicative Reasoning Project

Phase 2 of the Multiplicative Reasoning project builds on promising results from a range of postgraduate intervention lesson-sequence-based studies (e.g. Dlamini, 2014; Venkat & Askew, 2016; Hansa, 2017). The intervention lesson-sequence content; lesson structure and pedagogic approach are based on Askew’s (2005) ‘Big Books of Word Problems’.


Short sequences of carefully designed, well-structured lessons make a difference to the quality of learning.

Methodology Overview

Pre- and post-testing (with openings for a ‘delayed’ post-test to check on the extent to which learning is retained beyond the end of the intervention lesson sequence) are used to assess the hypothesis.

Building on the single classes that formed the empirical base of postgraduate studies an initial scale up to a Foundation Phase-wide trial in 9 classes in one Johannesburg primary school led to very positive results from a 4-lesson sequence, with intervention lessons occurring once a week preceded by planning meetings with the teachers/researcher team (Askew & Venkat, 2016).

In 2017, the project was extended to all of the WMC-P partner schools across the InterSen grades (Grades 4-7), including a ‘control’ comparison set of schools through a staggered implementation. The results from this second scaling, once again, indicated promising results. 

If you would like to look at the pre- and repeat post-tests that we used, and the ideas and lesson plans associated with the intervention lessons, you can use the links in the blocks below to find the booklets for the grade you are interested in. These materials are available under a Creative Commons License, and can be freely downloaded and shared, as long as you acknowledge where they came from. 

If you try out the tests and lessons with your class and would like to share feedback with us on your experiences and your students’ learning, we would love to hear from you! You can contact us by email on: Michael.askew@wits.ac.za  and hamsa.venkatakrishnan@wits.ac.za 

Foundation Phase booklets

Grade 4 - 7 booklets

Download the booklets by clicking on the title on the right

I Hate Maths Project

I hate maths...or do I?

On 3 May 2017 Prof Mike Askew used games and laughter to convince us that maths is lots of fun.

Those of us who were at the presentation thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon of learning and playing maths games using a simple set of cards.

Click below to download

At the event Lynn Bowie and Hamsa Venkat also handed out a magazine compilation of the articles they have written for The Teacher newspaper on primary school mathematics. This magazine is available for downloading here: 

Wits Maths Circles Magazine


Activities and Resources

Structuring Number Starters

The ‘Structuring Number Starter’ activities are aimed at assisting Foundation Phase teachers with simple ways in which they can focus their learners’ attention on number relationships and propertiesrather than on counting to solve number problems. In South Africa, there is lots of evidence of children in primary school working out the answers to calculations like 213+12 by counting – which is a non-efficient (and error-prone) strategy when working with bigger numbers. The Wits Maths Connect Primary (WMC-P) team will use this site to share activities and related resources that focus on structuring number at the start of each school term for the Foundation Phase grades R - 3.

Teachers and parents/carers are welcome to download the activities and resources and try them out with classes or with your own children. All activities and resources suggested for the term are linked to the CAPS guidelines for each grade so that teachers can easily slot these into their daily mental maths routines.

We would love to hear from you if you have tried any of the activities out and have some feedback.

Email us at hamsa.venkatakrishnan@wits.ac.za and corin.mathews@wits.ac.za

Primary Maths Links
  • This is the site of our sister project at Rhodes University run by Prof Mellony Graven. The website contains a wealth of articles, information and activities for primary mathematics.
  • The Maths Club website is the result of a collaboration between various NGOs and Universities involved in Primary Maths. It contains a searchable bank of games and activities that have been trialed in the South African context. 
  • The Nrich website is a UK-based website that has a wonderful wealth of resources for both primary and high school mathematics

Teaching of mental strategies that support the development of a strong number sense

Supporting the development of a strong number sense

The material in this section is designed to support the teaching of mental strategies that support the development of a strong number sense.

Each unit focuses on a particular key strategy. 

The idea for each of the unit is as follows:

  • The teacher uses the timed diagnostic assessment to assess the baseline knowledge of their learners. The results can be recorded in the marksheet provided.
  • The teacher runs the sequence of starter activities in class over the following 2 - 3 weeks. These activities should take about 10 minutes of class time.
  • At the end of the 2 - 3 weeks, the teacher repeats the diagnostic assessment and records the results in the marksheet. This can be analysed to see where the learners have improved and what aspects still need further work.

The materials provided are being developed as a collaboration between the Numeracy Chairs at Wits and Rhodes University together with international experts, professional, research and NGO bodies. As new units are developed they will be added to the site.

Bridging through ten
Extending bridging through ten
Term 1 Resources

For Grade R and Grade 1

Below you will find the guidelines for using the grade R and grade 1 number starters that you can download.

Collect 5

Skills: Number sequence 1 - 5, ordering, 1 more and 1 less, before and after
Instructions for gr R:Gr R Collect 5
Instructions for gr 1: Gr 1 Collect 5
Printable resource: Spinner and number track

Washing line

Skills: Number sequence 1 - 5, ordering, 1 more and 1 less, before and after
Instructions for gr R: Gr R Washing line
Instructions for gr 1: Gr 1 Washing Line
Printable resource: Washing line;  Digit cards

Race to 5

Skills: Number sequence 1 - 5, ordering, 1 more and 1 less, before and after
Instructions for gr R: Gr R race to 5
Instructions for gr 1: Gr 1 Race to 5
Printable resource: Spinner and number track

Two pots

Skills: 1 - 5 Number Bonds
Instructions for gr R: Gr R Two pots
Instructions for gr 1: Gr 1 Two pots
Printable resource: Bond House

For grade 2

Booklet for grade 2 term 1: Grade 2 Term 1

Includes activities on positioning numbers 1 - 20; adding though 10 and subtracting through 10.

Term 2 Resources

Below you will find the guidelines for using the grade R and grade 1 number starters that you can download.

Bond of 10

Skills: bonds of ten
Instructions for bonds of 10: Bonds of Ten
Resources: Bonds of ten worksheet

'Doubles' Washing line

Skills: Doubling and halving
Instructions: Doubles washlines
Resources: Doubles and Halves worksheet

Five and...

Skills: Adding on to 5
Instructions:  Five and

Race to 10

Skills: Number sequence, ordering one and two more than 5, before and after
Instructions: Race to 10

Washing line activity

Skills: Number sequence, ordering one and two more than 5, before and after
Instructions: Washing line activity
Resources: Washing line

Two pots

Skills: Number bonds
Instructions: Two pots
Resources: Bond House

Term 3 Resources

Below you will find the guidelines for using the grade R and grade 1 number starters that you can download.

Bridge through tens

 Adding with a bead string

 Counting forward and backward in tens

Skills: Add and subtract 1 - 20