Institute for Learning Sciences & Teacher Education

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Addressing and exploring the challenges of numeracy teaching and learning in and through a second language

In this presentation we will briefly outline the work of the South African Numeracy Chair Project (SANCP) at Rhodes University. This project represents a partnership between teachers, researchers, teacher advisors, communities and learners, to search for better understanding of, and ways to navigate, our mathematics education challenges. A wide range of factors contribute to South Africa’s extreme underperformance in mathematics, in which most learners are already two grades behind by Gr 4, and by Gr 9 only 3% of learners pass mathematics. The focus of this presentation is on the linguistic challenges faced by almost 80% of South African learners (learning mathematics through a second language). Specifically, we will discuss and illustrate some of the difficulties confronting teachers and students at the literacy/numeracy interface in contexts where students are not yet sufficiently proficient in English language to engage effectively with learning mathematics in English.

Speaker 1

Professor Mellony Graven is a Professor at Rhodes University and holds the South African Numeracy Chair (SANC). Her SANC project runs multiple programs with teachers, learners, teacher advisors and communities in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. She is the past President of the Southern African Association of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (2012-2014), and an executive member of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. Her passion and work focuses on the creation of a hub of mathematical activity and innovation that blends teacher and learner numeracy development with research focused on searching for sustainable ways to meet the challenges of mathematics education.

Speaker 2

Dr. Sally-Ann Robertson holds a SANC post-doctoral fellowship. Sally-Anne holds two masters’ degrees: one on the evolution and role of the theoretical disciplines in teacher education programmes; the other on English second language literacy development. Her role within SANC is to explore opportunities for synergy across the literacy/numeracy interface in the search for finding ways of improving South African learners’ levels of mathematics achievement – the focus of her doctoral study.


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