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Speculations about curriculum change: the Maths and Science Community of Practice

The fourth and last Maths and Science Community of Practice meeting of this year was held on 30 October 2018. It featured a conversation on changes that might be expected in Mathematics and Science curricula, based on issues that have been raised about the current curricula and the ways in which curricula have changed in the past.

Discussions touched on the complex interplay of factors that influence curriculum processes, and explored key themes such as the importance of equipping teachers to implement the reviewed curriculum, assessment as a curriculum driver, and the need for the curriculum to build understanding of concepts and develop higher-order thinking skills.

A highlight of the discussions was the introduction, by maths educationist Ingrid Sapire, of the recently developed Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework for South Africa, which provides a model and exemplars for teaching mathematics for understanding.  Click here to view the Framework.

Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework for South Africa: Teaching Mathematics for Understanding

After the Mathematics Education Indaba in 2016, the DBE set up a task team to develop a framework for the teaching and learning of mathematics in South Africa.

The framework is intended to help teachers implement the current curriculum in ways that support teaching and learning for understanding. It does this by providing a model and exemplars to guide teachers in transforming the way they teach.

The framework speaks to teaching maths meaningfully, to build depth of understanding. It has the following four dimensions:

– conceptual understanding

– procedural fluency

– strategic competence and

– mathematical reasoning

… with teaching taking place in learning-centred (not learner-centred) classrooms.

The Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework is expected to bring about greater coordination in the training and development of maths teachers. It advocates moving away from the idea of ‘learner-centred’ classrooms towards ‘learning-centred’ classrooms. The former has created certain misconceptions amoungst teachers and has taken away some of the agency and authority of teaching.

To address the concern that the CAPS mathematics curriculum does not prepare students to engage successfully with maths at university level, the Framework committee has suggested that an extra maths subject (i.e. Advanced Programme or AP Maths) be introduced to bridge the gap between school and university levels, for those who intend to take maths as a subject at university.

During the course of its work, the Framework committee reviewed the curriculum, which led to questioning of certain aspects and recognition of certain shortfalls and concerns (such as overloading and issues of sequencing and progression). A curriculum committee, which has yet to be appointed, will take the work of refining the existing CAPS curriculum further. This committee is still to be constituted, and will be fully representative. The Framework committee is set to remain in place as a commenting and guiding body.

The DBE has extended the period for commenting on the curriculum review until early December. Everyone with an interest in mathematics education is urged to submit a response. The documents are available on the DBE website.