Initiatives to promote non-routine mathematical problem-solving skills: South African Mathematics Challenge
South Africa experiences a dire shortage of human capacity and high-order competences in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and the related Science, Technology, Engineering, Artful design/problem solving, and Mathematics (STEAM) fields of education in schools as well as at institutions of Higher Education and Training, and Teacher Education. Although the current South African school curriculum to some degree can hold its own among school curricula elsewhere, its largely “one size fits all” rationale, lacking implementation of it, and access to and quality of teaching and learning in the scarce fields seem to significantly limit the expected outcome of preparing learners for successful study and work in the desired fields.
Evidently the implemented/enacted school curriculum does not meet expectations to provide in the high-demand needs of the country, its people and economy as set out the National Development Plan for South Africa. The dire position of mathematics and physical sciences education compared to most other countries that were included in international comparative studies (e.g. TIMSS, 2011) stood out as a key stumbling block in the way of sustainable economic growth in this country.
SAMF, in partnership with MyTutor.chat augment the school learning programme with initiatives that go beyond the maths curriculum. Non-routine mathematical problem solving requires some degree of creativity or originality.
These problems typically do not have an immediately apparent strategy for solving them and often can be solved in multiple ways and with a variety of strategies. It is especially non-routine problems that can develop the required critical thinking and reasoning skills that are so important to foster in learners. In addition to exposure to non-routine mathematical problem solving, the initiatives listed are also dedicated to providing problems that are grounded in real-life situations, which is another aspect which has been shown to improve the understanding and love of mathematics.
The following events will be hosted in order to promote the importance of mathematics:
– the 2023 Quizz: Jan-April
– the Mathematical Talent Search: October 2022 – May 2023
– the South African Mathematics Olympiad (national competition for high school learners): 9 March
– the South African Mathematics Challenge (national competition for primary school learners): 13 – 17 March
– the South African leg of the international Kangaroo: 3-9 April
The series of events are organised by SAMF – an umbrella body for the two professional societies for mathematics in the country (South Africa), namely the South African Mathematical Society (SAMS) and the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa (AMESA). This in partnership with MyTutor.chat – an online platform consisting of more than 1 000 non-routine mathematical problems.