Advanced programme maths taking flight at SP

International Science Fair (ISF) finalists Nafeesah Jacobs, Fatimaah Schloss and Samiya van Niekerk.

The promotion of mathematics as a subject at South Peninsula (SP) High School has been taken literally to the “nth level” with the introduction of Advanced Programme (AP) Mathematics at the school.

The AP Mathematics programme is in its fourth year. The 2017 matric class is the second group of SP pupils writing the Independent Education Board (IEB) AP mathematics examination.

Zeid Baker, SP acting principal, said: “I believe that encouraging pupils to persevere with Pure Mathematics, even when they are struggling, is the right thing to do. Mathematical literacy, should not be an option.”

As an Mathematics, Science and Technology (MST) school, SP has made it compulsory for Grade 10 and Grade 11 pupils to do Pure Mathematics.

“Every effort is being made by the mathematics department, led by Adnaan Ederies, to support pupils in the subject,” said Mr Baker.

The school receives funding from the Optima Trust to promote the subject and have all pupils at the school registered with Hey Maths, an app, which assists pupils in solving difficult mathematics problems.

According to Mr Ederies, the curriculum for mathematics has undergone subtle changes since the time when parents had been doing mathematics at high school.

The use of e-learning and smart phone technology has assisted parents and pupils in mastering some of the concepts in this sub-

Three matriculants of 2016, Kyle de Kock, Daniel Bruintjies and Siraj Bedford, are currently in their first year of engineering study at Stellenbosch University.

According to Kyle, the boys have found the first year of Engineering Mathematics a breeze. “Kyle attributes this to the good grounding in AP Maths they received at high school.

The idea of introducing AP Maths as a subject at the school was at the insistence of Brian Isaacs, who served 30 years as principal at the school, said Mr Baker.

He said Mr Isaacs also motivated for Pure Mathematics as a compulsory subject in the Further Education and Training (FET) Phase. “I believe that the intended decision by the Department of Basic Education to do away with mathematics as a requirement for a pass in Grade 8 and Grade 9 is a concern.”

Schools must consider and lobby their parent body to implement internal policies which encourage and makes it compulsory for pupils at a school to attain a certain level of competence in this subject, Mr Baker said.

“In my opinion, it is a gateway subject for many careers. Our forefathers fought for our freedom and a quality education for their children. By not promoting Pure Mathematics, we are perpetuating the ideals of (Hendrick) Verwoerd and others who were the architects of apartheid and believed that the ‘natives of Africa’ were destined for menial tasks.

“Teachers who undermine and underestimate the ability of our children in the subject should reconsider their positions as teachers. Teachers who believe that the system is failing our children should fix it,” said Mr Baker.

Mr Ederies and Mr Baker visited Mbilwi High School in rural Limpopo in 2012. The school is a celebrated top science school of the Department of Basic Education and has its matric class all doing Pure Mathematics.

Mr Baker said: “The success in Pure Mathematics at Mbilwi is largely due to the support system at the school. The school has a six day cycle of Pure Mathematics.”

Mr Ederies believes SP’s performance at the 2017 UCT Maths Olympiad is another indicator of the successful challenge at SP to engage pupils in subjects which require critical thinking.

More than 17 pupils obtained merit awards at this year’s Olympiad. The school also had 10
pupils achieving top positions in the 2017 SAASTA Science Olympiad.

According to head of physical sciences, Deidre Bastian, 26 pupils obtained medals at the 2017 Eskom Expo for Young Scientists held at UCT in August. Three Grade 9 pupils, Saamiyah van Niekerk, Fatima Schloss and Nafeesah Jacobs, were selected and represented Cape Town at the International Science Fair in Johannesburg at the beginning of October.

Mr Baker said: “I believe that the economic recession that South Africa finds itself in currently, may be due to many factors, one of which is a lack of entrepreneurship.”

This, he believes, is closely linked to inventions and technological advancement. The water shortage dilemma in the Western Cape and the ongoing renewable energy crisis must be solved by the youth. “Good careers require Pure Mathematics. Pupils from all over Africa studying engineering and the sciences at our universities are excelling at mathematics. This may be attributed to the foundations received in their home country. We cannot be left behind. The promotion of the sciences and, in particular, mathematics, is key to the upliftment of the country’s economy and the creation of jobs for all South Africans. Educators find themselves at the coalface of enquiry. Every effort must be made to encourage our youth at primary and high schools to be ambi-
tious and set high standards and goals for themselves,” said Mr Baker.