Ricochet News

New centralised maths and science resource centre to benefit ECape learners

By Nicky Willemse - Sep 27, 2018
New centralised maths and science resource centre to benefit ECape learners

Imagine being in an under-resourced school, where one maths and science teacher is struggling to get through the curriculum for every grade. Or worse, there’s no maths or science teacher at all – and learners must rely on textbooks alone.

For many South African learners, this is reality.

For a long time, Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC) has been pioneering technology-based solutions to help learners like this, in the form of tablet-based maths and science support, which learners can access at Saturday incubator schools, at after-school sessions with peers, or at small maths and science resource centres set up at their schools.

But in King William’s Town on September 27, in partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Basic Education and the Old Mutual Flagship Education Programme’s (OMEFP’s) maths and science development project, GMMDC will be launching a much bigger, centralised resource centre, which can be accessed by all the schools in the immediate area.

“The new centre will give many more pupils a chance at improving their maths and science marks. Maths and science teachers will also benefit from professional skills development and resource-support activities at the centre,” said GMMDC director Prof Werner Olivier.

About the new centralised maths and science resource centre

The new centre, housed in the Education Department’s District Office, will initially start with 30 tablets, onto which GMMDC’s innovative teaching and learning model has been uploaded. The digital package, called TouchTutor®, covers the entire maths and science curricula from Grade 8 to 12, and includes PowerPoint lecture-driven presentations, video content, calculator tutorials, a multi-language glossary of science and maths terms, self-tests and old exam papers with answer memos.

Laced through the model is open-source maths and science software, respectively called GeoGebra and PhET Interactive Simulations, which help bring mathematical and science concepts to life, making them easier to understand.

Maths learners will also have access to printed easy-to-follow learner guides, to take them through the programme.

“These resources and guides serve as what we call a scaffolding platform – additional extra teaching and learning layers for self-directed learning – which they can access after school hours, and which will help them with exam preparation and content reinforcement.”

An on-site IT expert will be available to help the learners.

“We’ve trained a young, unemployed person to assist with the IT at the site, and to provide technology support to the learners who come to the resource centre.”  

The centre will double as a training room for GMMDC’s nationally-accredited, teacher-upskilling programme.

“We have developed a professional learning network (PLN) model – and will run our PLN sessions at the centralised centre.”

It will also be a place where GMMDC can run its unique Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) hands-on workshops, where teachers and learners participate in practical experiential learning activities, using science and maths to solve real-life problems in creative ways.

GMMDC introduced STEAM – a modern learner-centred approach that has become popular overseas – to South African schools last year.

“What’s particularly important to us about this new resource centre, is that we have the full support of the Department of Basic Education at district level, including the subject advisors and chief education specialists who have been working with us over the past three years. Our hope is that we can grow the concept to national level, to support even more learners.”

Several senior officials from the National Department of Basic Education have confirmed their attendance at the launch, including Maths, Science and Technology Director Dr Aaron Nkosi and Chief Education Specialist Henry Kavuma.

On September 26, in the run-up the launch, GMMDC will be running a STEAM session at another recently-established maths and science resource centre housed at Archie Velile Secondary School in Dimbaza, which serves as a hub for three project schools in the area.

In addition to their tablet-based model, GMMDC also has a free TouchTutor® app for Android phones, available on Google Play, which provides CAPS curriculum support for maths and can be accessed by any learner with a mobile device.

“Our phone app is just exploding,” said Olivier.

Image: Prof Werner Olivier, Director of Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre

Follow more RNEWS articles, subscribe to our YouTube channel and for breaking news LIKE us on Facebook.