Innovative technological intervention for mathematics under research and development

Posted on October 02, 2014

Mathematics – a major problem

Mathematics education is one of the national priorities in South Africa. According to the recently released results of the TIMSS 2011 study – a study providing an overview of the quality of mathematics education at Grade 8 level – South Africa continued to demonstrate very low performances, and the national scores were yet again among the lowest in the world.

The results of the Annual National Assessment (2013) also paint a discouraging picture of the state of schooling in the predominantly black former disadvantaged schools in townships. Prof Stols explains that one of the main problems of the education system is some teachers’ own lack of mathematical content knowledge.

Mobile technology to the rescue

Meanwhile, the growth rate for cellphone (mobile phone) usage in Africa is the highest in the world. A study conducted by UNICEF in 2012 found that South Africans have the highest user rate of mobile technology on the African continent. Mobile technologies, therefore, increasingly open new opportunities and avenues for teachers’ support. Prof Stols’s research aims to explore different ways in which mobile devices can be used on a daily basis to support Grades 10 to 12 mathematics teachers and learners.

‘A way to support both teachers and learners in and outside the classroom is to make good quality material available on their mobile devices. The latest technology makes it possible to embed video clips, assessment, interactive applets, and hyperlinks into the text. This material could then be used on tablets and mobile phones. Good quality interactive apps and e-books will enhance understanding and visualisation because students can discover, manipulate and drag the interactive sketches directly in their mobile devices,’ he says.

More research to boost mathematics 

An NRF-funded project, with the main objective of developing a mathematics information delivery hub (MIDHub) that filters and organises available online material and makes it available to teachers on an information delivery hub through mobile devices, involves researchers from various disciplines and four institutions of higher education, namely the University of Pretoria, the University of the Free State, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Walter Sisulu University.

- Author Petronel Fourie
Published by Petronel Fourie

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