“5 x 2 = 10; ⅓ >⅙; 36 ÷ 3 = 12; the numerator is… what part of the fraction again…?; 112 ÷ 7 =… help!” Sounds familiar? Or maybe not, since in the ‘grown-up world’ we effortlessly reach for the calculator for the easiest calculation, and fraction-terms are used less often than swear words. However, you might be able to recall memories of desperate cries for help while stuck behind your primary or high school Maths books.
According to the Report on the Annual National Assessments of 2011, all four examined tests (Grade 3 Literacy and Numeracy; and Grade 6 Language and Mathematics) reported the following: “fewer than half of all learners in the country perform at a level that indicates that they have at least partially achieved the competencies specified in the curriculum.” It seems that only 3% of learners in Grade 6 Mathematics can be considered outstanding. These are shocking statistics. It is clear that we are facing a problem and that a strong need exists to find tools to help ‘fix’ this problem - for the sake of our country’s future. Some tools you can consider: TriMaths, developed by Prof J.G. Maree, is a suite of three assessments designed to assess 9 to 15 year old learners on the following:
- Mathematical skill,
- Mathematical vocabulary and
- Attitude towards the subject.
They are designed to be used together, but can also be used individually. All three assessments require a reading level between 4th and 7th grade. All three assessments’ administration time varies between 10-25 minutes, is hand-scoreable and are available in English, Zulu, Afrikaans, Tswana and Portuguese!. Concerned about older learners? The Study Orientation Questionnaire in Maths (SOM), also developed by Prof. J.G. Maree, specifically aims to assess 12 year old and older learners’ interest and study orientation in mathematics. Administration time is 20-45 minutes, the questionnaire is hand-scoreable, and as with TriMaths, also available in both English and Afrikaans. These tools are valuable as a diagnostic instrument to identify potential problems, and to provide a study guideline in mathematics. Furthermore, it can be used to familiarise learners with certain basic principles of effective study in mathematics, as well as the important role of study conditions, motivation and other background factors, in academic success.