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Nick Taylor reports on the Mathematics Indaba, 12-14 December 2016:

"Meaningful and Effective Mathematics Teaching and Learning: In Search of the ‘South African Pedagogical Identity". Led by the Ministry of Basic Education, nearly 100 maths educators from the Department of Basic Education, Provincial Education Departments, universities, NGOs and publishers gathered at Sol Plaatjie House for three days to discuss solutions to the problem of poor performance in mathematics in the school system. The Minister and Deputy Minister both attended throughout.

Nick Taylor reports:

While acknowledging the progress made in raising the country’s mean performance on the TIMSS and SACMEQ international tests, Minister Motshekga noted in her opening address that:


‘… it is only fair to say the teaching and learning of Mathematics in South Africa is like a patient in hospital. We have since moved out of the ICU into the general ward. We need to get the patient discharged and healthy.’


The Minister went on to call for the reinvigoration of the teaching of mathematics in its entirety and for the overhaul of the South African pedagogical-content knowledge outlook:


‘We must as [a] matter of urgency develop a South African Pedagogical Content Knowledge Framework as a starting point.’

Delegates debated these ideas at length, through plenary presentations and commissions which ranged across a variety of topics including language, assessment, curriculum, pedagogy, textbooks and manipulatives, teacher development, and the needs of the four phases of schooling. There was much talk about problem solving, deep conceptual understanding, mathematical thinking, lesson study, Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), pforessional learning communities (PLCs) and continuing professional development (CPD). A team from the Primary Teacher Education (PrimTED) Project (Nick Taylor, Corin Mathews, Gary Powell and Sharon McAuliffe), the multi-year project to improve initial teacher education for Literacy and Mathematics teachers, presented the goals, structure and deliverables of the project and the workplans of the three working groups on mathematics.


What the Indaba did not produce was clarity on what form the envisaged South African Pedagogical Content Knowledge Framework is likely to take. Will it be a guideline which assists teachers to understand the specifications of CAPS, a set of workbooks aligned to CAPS, or a set of lesson plans which operationalises the curriculum through a structured set of daily activities, to name just three possibilities?


The programme had planned to end the Indaba with a way forward for constructing the Framework, with the appointment of a 10-member Task Team and the formulation of an Implementation Plan, deliverables and timeframes. However, these targets were not reached and the Indaba left these matters in the hands of the Ministry and DBE. Teams led by the Maths, Science and Technology (MST) Ministerial Task Team will now take the work forward in finalising the work done over the three days and bring it to its conclusion with an informed way forward for South African Mathematics Education. These teams of experts will work in consultation with other key stakeholders in carrying this task forward. The Minister has given the team 12 months to complete this work and to present back to the Mathematics Indaba the final Mathematics Framework, in December of 2017.