Bala Wande: Numeracy Indaba 2022

Bala Wande recently hosted its inaugural Numeracy Indaba in Johannesburg which brought together stakeholders working in the maths community. The aim of the event was  to engage on issues related to teaching and learning in the foundation  phase.

On the program was a series of panel presentations addressing the key areas of Early Grade Maths. The panel presentations focused on Foundation Phase Maths Materials, language use in the multilingual context, Covid-19 losses and responses, assessment for learning and collaboration. 

In addressing Foundation Phase Maths Materials, Nicky Roberts from the University of Fort Hare and Lindiwe Tshuma from Wits University  presented a reflection on curricular Learning and Teaching Support Materials [LTSM] provisions in the local context. Nicky further shared the analogy of the central system as a large ship around which smaller vessels were gathered – circling as it were, in support of the big ship and hoping to offer at least insights (if not actual materials) that could be used centrally to improve mathematics outcomes in the country. Also on this panel, Aarnout Brombacher (of Brombacher and Associates) spoke about his recent work developing materials for teachers and learners in Malawi, linked to the Number Sense South African programme.

The second presentation, chaired by Nosisi Feza of the University of Venda, focused on language use in the multilingual context. This is a critical issue for consideration in the Foundation Phase and it is fast becoming the focus of many studies. Research to date has suggested that language use and knowledge of best practice in the multilingual context may well be the key to improving learner outcomes. The presenters on this panel were Lindiwe Tshuma (Wits University) and Jabulani Sibanda (Sol Plaatjie University).

Keynote Address on multilingualism in learning and teaching mathematics by Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-
Chancellor of the University of Cape Town
made the opening address of the Indaba in
which she situated the learning and teaching
of mathematics firmly in the multilingual South African context.
She lauded the Bala Wande team for choosing
a bilingual format for their materials. This, she said,
based on her research and that of others,
has been shown to be supportive of learning
in the context.

Jaamia Gallant of the University of Cape Town, who authored a report on Covid losses, chaired the third panel which focused on Covid losses and responses,  – with this background knowledge she steered the session where Shaheeda Jaffer, also from the University of Cape Town presented a critique of the Recovery Annual Teaching Plans [RATPs] with a view to curriculum change and Bonita Goetham from the Department of Basic Education, spoke about ways in which the Department of Basic Education has addressed the multiple problems and challenges arising in the system due to Covid.

Assessment (with a focus on assessment for learning) was the focus of the last content related panel. One of the speakers (Roelien Herholdt of the Joint Education Trust) was not able to attend – she was to present on the Bala Wande- MARKO D collaboration which will be reported on at a later stage. Anil Kanjee of Tshwane University of Technology  gave an insightful (and entertaining) address on assessment for learning, linking it to error analysis in the Foundation Phase context.

Collaboration was the theme of the final panel where Kim Porteus of the Magic Classroom Collective (MCC) and Cally Kuhne of Redink spoke about their work in Foundation Phase Maths projects. Bala Wande has worked closely with Kim and Cally in their materials development over the past three years. Collaboration is key to success in overcoming the challenges faced by the system – this message was emphasised by Fatima Adam of Zenex, from the funders perspective.

The overall turnout consisted of  participants from most of the Maths NGOs, various tertiary institutions across the country, national and provincial department officials and funders. The general perception was that the Indaba presented an interesting and refreshing look at maths issues in the Foundation Phase. 

We hope this will be the first of a series of events that we host where the work of Bala Wande can feature in the context of the wider community efforts addressing (and ultimately resolving) the issues plaguing early grade maths in South Africa.

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