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‘Expanded curriculum to blame for poor maths results’

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With little under 24 hours before the final results of the National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams are released, reports suggest that the class of 2014 will likely see a drop in the overall matric pass rate. This comes after monitoring body Umalusi revealed that the 2014 results in maths and physics, were worse than those posted in previous years.

Some have attributed this poor performance to a change in the 2014 maths syllabus, which has seen the introduction of two new sectors, namely Euclidean Geometry and Probability. And the executive director of the SA Maths Institute, Prof. Johann Engelbrecht, suspected the full curriculum was to the extent where students were unable to tackle any area of the subject in depth.

“Although I am in favor of re-including the geometry in the curriculum, it does mean that there are so many topics that everything is done fairly superficially,” he stated.

The reports come in the same year where grade 9 students posted dismal results in the Annual National Assessments, with a shocking average of 10.8%. Of those that passed, only 3% managed to score over 50% during the tests.

And Engelbrecht said it would be extremely difficult to cut down on topics in the maths’s syllabus, bearing in mind the growing importance of the subject in many career fields. Whilst the subject was ‘packed’, he said that first year students at tertiary level were quickly finding out that the maths education received at high school level was in fact insufficient.

“I think it is high time that we seriously consider splitting the mathematics into two subjects. In many countries it is possible for students of this age to do a bigger portion (of the subject). We currently do 1/7th of your total package that is mathematics,” he said.

This model would see learners afforded the choice of dropping another subject, in favour of a second maths subject.

Another suggestion that has been punted as a solution to the deteriorating maths performance has been placing added importance to the Maths Olympiad. At present, the country’s top students were faring quite well at international level, finishing 64th from 102 countries in the 2014 edition. But Engelbrecht said that the Olympiad need not be exclusive to those at the top end, but could have an improvement on the overall performance of all students.

“The main objective is participation and not performance. If you participate in Olympiads, it will also impact on your performance in school mathematics. It will definitely have a positive impact on your marks,” he said.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected to announce the overall NSC pass rate during a media briefing on Monday. Results will subsequently be issued to learners on Tuesday morning. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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