Verbeter jou wiskunde- en wetenskappunte vir tersiêre studie

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SUNSEP-kollegas (Stellenbosch Universiteit se sentrum vir pedagogie) gesels met Naomi Meyer oor die SciMathUS-program, wat matriekleerders in staat stel om hul wiskunde- en wetenskappunte te verbeter. Hier is nog inligting oor SciMathUS.

Ek hoor by die US is daar hoop vir mense wat nie matrikulasievrystelling het nie om hul wiskundepunte te verbeter. Maar is wiskunde werklik so belangrik vir universiteitsgrade?

This is an age-old debate, but it all depends what you intend studying for.

If one wants to study the arts or law, then mathematics might not necessarily be high up on a prospective student’s agenda. However, many degree programmes, even in the arts, require students to take mathematics. In mathematics one learns a specific way of thinking, reasoning and solving problems. That is one of the reasons why mathematics is important.

Prospective students should therefore make sure that they choose their subjects in school wisely. We often see students so disappointed when they realise too late that they have not chosen the “correct” group of subjects to access certain degree programmes

SciMathUS was initiated in 2001 to address the shortage of students accessing the sciences, applied sciences, accounting and engineering fields of study, thus the emphasis on mathematics and physical sciences or accounting.

On the other hand, the importance associated with mathematics stems from the ubiquitous cry that we need engineers, doctors, etc, but in our opinion it also lessens the importance of mathematics for vocational training. We will always require artisans such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. Mathematics is not important only for engineering and the sciences, but also for vocational training ... the same argument for science subjects at school.

Waar loop dinge skeef en wat veroorsaak dat leerders sukkel met wiskunde en teen die tyd dat hulle in matriek is, eenvoudig nie die mas opkom nie?

This question is a good topic for a PhD thesis …

– Conceptual development in mathematics should be taught when you teach mathematics, from the very beginning. If mathematics teachers are not strong pedagogically and have issues with the content, damage (for lack of a better word)  will be done and/or misconception on how to do and think mathematically will be carried through. It is too late to expect of the FET phase (matric) teacher to correct these wrongs.

– Teachers who are not qualified to teach mathematics are sometimes given the task to teach the subject due to the shortage of mathematics teachers (they are all in Dubai/London, etc, through no fault of their own, because the pay here is lousy!). What sometimes happens is that someone might be appointed to teach English, but because he or she did a six-month course in mathematics while studying economics (often as an extra subject), now teaches mathematics.

– Another consequence of the above-mentioned issue is that learners are often coached to solve mathematics problems using recipes instead of taught how to think conceptually. The high failure rate of first-years doing mathematics in higher education is testament to this. The scary part is that this often includes learners who had scored high marks for mathematics in grade 12.

Wat leer mens in SciMathUS? Hoe kan mens binne ’n jaar jou punte verbeter terwyl dit dalk op skool nie aldag so goed gegaan het nie?

The success of the programme can be ascribed to, among other things, the teaching philosophy.

SciMathUS follows an active learning approach. Active learning is defined as “a process whereby students engage in activities, such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving that promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content. Cooperative learning, problem-based learning, and the use of case methods and simulations are some approaches that promote active learning.”

Active learning also requires a shift from what educators teach to what students learn. Students have to learn to take responsibility for their own learning and become actively involved in the learning process. This challenges students to discover how they learn, to find and use appropriate learning resources and strategies and to learn how to think critically. These skills are taught and developed in an additional course called academic literacy. To study successfully at university level, students need more than just sound subject knowledge; they also need to be skilled students equipped with well-developed reasoning, interpersonal and problem-solving skills, young adults who should know the importance of time management, the importance of having a balanced life between social life and studying, the importance of nutritious food, etc.

The teaching and learning approach emphasises self-directed learning because the students have to reflect on and control their own learning activities – skills which are necessary in higher education and conducive to lifelong learning. These processes are assisted and mentored by a group of very special facilitators in SciMathUS.

In order to prepare students sufficiently for mainstream higher education, the programme expects them to work hard from the first day. The students have to realise the importance of continuous improvement and not only work hard to obtain a good mark in the final examination or a test. Not that good marks are irrelevant: SciMathUS students need to improve their marks significantly to be accepted in higher education when they reapply.

Die matriekuitslae is in die nuus. Mens hoor dikwels net negatiewe nuus in die media. Watter raad het jy vir skoliere én studente in die ongelyke Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing as hulle beter wil vaar in wiskunde en wetenskap?

There is only one way to get through mathematics: through hard and consistent work! I believe, and based on the many success stories we read in the news and experience in our work, that we should not define our ability to do anything based on our race, financial and social circumstances. This may sound like a cliché, but no one should use these as excuses for not doing anything and not succeeding. If you have the hunger and the will, and most importantly, the support, go for it!

As mens ’n oomblik lank vergeet van universiteitsgrade: wat beteken wiskunde- en wetenskapbegrip in die alledaagse lewe vir ’n mens?

It allows one to think critically and analytically and it orientates you to become solution-based rather than problem-based. These are traits required for surviving in this rapidly ever-changing world. And on a very practical level, we all have to manage our own finances and budgets. We have to know how to determine a 15% discount and what it means when water and electricity go up by x%. 

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