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New free app to boost maths and science results

May 2, 2018
New free app to boost maths and science results

IN many under-resourced schools across South Africa – with often under-qualified teachers – pupils do not always gain the mathematical knowledge or skills they need to excel at school or to access universities.

To give pupils a better chance, Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre has been using cutting-edge technology to boost teaching and learning in maths and science in secondary schools – and on Friday (May 4) will launch its second unique education app.

The app –TouchTutor® Quiz – which is available free from the Google Play Store, provides mobile access to maths and science content, self-tests with feedback, multi-language support and even school- or province-based competitions, linked to the Grade 8 to 12 school curricula for maths, and the Grade 10 to 12 physical sciences curricula.

TouchTutor® Quiz can be downloaded onto phones or android tablets – which can be linked to data projectors for teaching use in classrooms.

“This new app can be used by pupils, teachers and schools anywhere in South Africa. It builds on our existing programmes, which have led to improved understanding and real results in the classroom. The new app will allow us to bring more innovation into the classroom and help even more pupils, which we are really excited about,” said GMMDC director Prof Werner Olivier.  

TouchTutor® Quiz is a spin-off of GMMDC’s first app – the ground-breaking TouchTutor® package – which is an offline teaching and learning resource that covers the complete school curriculum. This app, first introduced in 2012 and expanded each year until its 2017 completion, brings maths and physical sciences concepts to life for pupils through offline video lessons, PowerPoint presentations and innovative software called GeoGebra – while also boosting their understanding through past papers, interactive self-tests, and language support in several South African languages.

Until now, TouchTutor® has only been available as a tablet- or desktop-based “personal tutor” for pupils in GMMDC project schools, and a laptop-based teaching resource for teachers. To date, more than 7 000 Grade 10 to 12 pupils at over 100 project schools have received tablets with TouchTutor® support through GMMDC’s Incubator School Programme (ISP) or their Tablet-assisted After-school Peer Support (TAPS) programmes, and more than 1 500 teachers from 450 schools have received laptops through GMMDC’s teacher development programmes. GMMDC has also set up tablet- and desktop-based resource centres at most of the project schools – benefiting a further 10 000 pupils.

Over the past three years, more than 50% of the ISP and TAPS pupils at project schools in Nelson Mandela Bay and other Eastern Cape districts, have enrolled for university study programmes.

“Our aim now is to reach and support a much wider target group of teachers and learners via the new TouchTutor® Quiz mobile app,” said Olivier.

“A common thread through all our programmes has been our focus on harnessing accessible offline technology in a creative way to reach the new ‘screen generation’ of learners, who cannot imagine a world without TVs, mobile phones and computers. Teachers of maths and physical sciences are in desperate need of modern teaching approaches to connect and address aspirations and the content gaps of learners in South Africa.”

Olivier said Friday’s launch was also an opportunity to celebrate the “impact and maturation of the TouchTutor® package after more than five years of research and development”.

Speakers at the launch include pupils in the TAPS programmes, the software developers behind the TouchTutor® package and the new app, namely the Code Group and AvoChoc, along with GMMDC’s Dr Phil Collett, who will provide more insight around the development of the TouchTutor® Quiz app.

Image: Prof Werner Olivier, director of Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC), is the driving force behind the new TouchTutor® Quiz app.