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August 29, 2018

New Zenex study provides a valuable overview of Maths teaching and learning programmes

The Zenex Foundation commissioned a landscape review of South African medium to large scale intervention programmes that are aimed at improving learning and teaching in Mathematics. The study provides a picture of the state of interventions in the country, recommendations from experts, and a review of the literature.

Below are four key findings from the study:

  • School Phase – Interventions are largely concentrated at the secondary schooling phase rather than at primary schooling. The phase that interventions are targeted at is important because it has implications for the impact and potential success of the intervention. Evidence suggests that the highest impact is reached when interventions are targeted at the Foundation Phase, which provides “the cognitive foundations on which future learning can build”.
  • Resources and Inputs – Most projects invest in resource inputs and people development. Human investment includes professional training and development for teachers and school management teams, but does not include parent/community inputs.
  • Geographic Concentration – A significant percentage of Maths interventions are located in Gauteng and the Western Cape. This does not take away from the fact that there is a national spread of Maths interventions in South Africa. What is concerning, though, is that the implementation of Maths strategies is not co-ordinated across all provinces and therefore differs at a provincial level. Monitoring and Evaluation is not embedded in a number of these projects.
  • Theoretical Frameworks – Interventions are underpinned by theories of change that are in turn underpinned by the importance of quality passes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects to facilitate access into STEM-related qualifications in institutions of higher learning. The Mathematical approach is influenced by attempts to be aligned to National Curriculum Statements.

South Africa has a long way to go in producing quality Maths education. Recommendations from this report suggest that the Foundation Phase, with a focus on building “number sense”, is the most impactful, economic and strategic phase for interventions. A focus in this area will go a long way to improving learning outcomes at the Senior and Further Education and Training Phases. In keeping with the Zenex Foundation’s commitment to evidence-based programme design approach, it is hoped that these findings will enable better programme design and implementation in future.

You may contact the Zenex Foundation at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for the full Report.

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