GPLMS Mathematics Overview

 

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The Team

 John Thurlow: Project Manager
 
Ingrid Sapire
Foundation Phase Manager
 
Elspeth Khembo
Intermediate Phase Manager
 
Ingrid Harris
Foundation Phase Coordinator
 
George Nkogatse
Intermediate Phase Coordinator

 

The Context

Mathematics teaching and learning in the Gauteng province, as in the rest of South Africa, has been through years of struggle towards improving outcomes. The GPLMS was introduced with its mathematics component in 2012 to assist teachers to carry out their critical role of teaching our learners their foundational mathematics to equip them to face high school maths and further higher education in the years to come.

The GPLMS Mathematics Approach

The Mathematics GPLMS Team hopes to improve the content knowledge and pedagogy of teachers, coaches and the SMT that support learning and teaching through the provision of detailed lesson plans and other materials and resources (LTSM), coupled with positive mentoring and coaching principles. The main goal of the Mathematics GPLMS team is to provide support that can bring about the improvement of learner learning and achievement in Gauteng schools.

In order to achieve this goal the team is conscious that a paradigm shift needs to occur from general negativity and hopelessness towards mathematics teaching and achievement in schools. Coaching and mentoring should bring about a shift in the attitude towards the subject. The team focus on preparation of the coaches in order to equip them in their pivotal role which is to communicate GPLMS implementation practices.

Offering curricular support in order to shift practice and enable the paradigm shift is fundamental to the GPLMS mathematics programme. Curricular support is needed in both teaching and assessment. The provision of high quality material which includes all content that teachers need to cover when they teach their learners is supported through particular instructional design so that this content is logically and sequentially introduced. Methodological steps are incorporated into the instructional design to further support the teachers. Assessment on an on-going basis which is designed into the instructional programme provides another support for teachers. In the Foundation phase there is provision for continuous assessment, in line with policy and the needs of Foundation Phase learners while in the Intermediate Phase assessment follows CAPS policy particular to that phase.

Once teachers become more confident with the mathematics curricular content they have to teach and how to assess it their professional judgement should improve and with it their teaching confidence and quality.

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Rationale for the Mathematics GPLMS approach

The overall GPLMS approach (lesson plans and coach support) was in place when mathematics was incorporated as part of the intervention. In this context, the mathematics team have developed the mathematics implementation approach appropriate to the overall aims and goals of the GPLMS. This goal is the improvement of teaching and learning in the province. The achievement of the goal will be improvement on the national benchmarking test, now in place, the Annual National Assessment (ANA). It is well known that teachers teach to a test, they do not teach content over time and consolidate the knowledge of the content. Currently in South Africa, there is great pressure on teachers to teach to the ANA and while this is a critical benchmark for general improvement in teaching, the mathematics team aims not just to teach the “test” (i.e. the CAPS curriculum requirements) and thereby achieve short-term success, but rather to instil lasting quality improvement in the teaching force in Gauteng schools by building up the mathematical content knowledge and teaching ability of all teachers. This underlies the approach taken in the lesson plan development and coach training which communicates the GPLMS method to teachers. The lesson plans incorporate ANA preparation in multiple ways – daily teaching of the curriculum content which forms the basis of ANA testing material, inclusion of activities and questions in the learner material which are similar in style to those they might encounter in an ANA paper – but they also go beyond simplistic preparation for a test by embodiying a carefully considered, well sequenced, balanced and structured mathematics teaching programme that, if it were properly implemented, would transform the teaching of mathematics in the province.

Synergy across the phases: an essential component of the Mathematics GPLMS programme

The CAPS Policy is content driven, it provides the necessary synergy across phases through the progression of curricular content. However, due to backlogs which are in place as a result of historical disadvantages this policy simultaneously creates pressure on teachers of which the GPLMS mathematics team is aware. The FP materials and training provision is aimed at preparing learners for the transition into Intermediate Phase. The lesson plans across the two phases (and into the Senior Phase in Grade 7) are designed using very much the same template and hence support teaching which creates synergy across the phases. It will take years to eliminate the huge gaps in terms of knowledge and skills necessary to bridge between the Foundation Phase and to Intermediate Phase but in time this will become a smooth transition especially once effective teaching is in place across all phases. The process is not always managed effectively at many schools and the current Language Policy impacts greatly on these processes as well.

Communication of key ideas

The mathematics team aims to give teachers support through communication of key ideas which are pertinent to the teaching of mathematics in Gauteng schools. This communication is varied according to the context and need, but it ranges from communication with regard to day-to-day teaching requirements to higher-level discussion on implications of policy matters which impact on the daily teaching (and teaching quality) in our schools. Policy documents are found in all schools and they provide the first and most formal communication of the GPLMS mathematics team aims since policy directs what the programme should cover. The lesson plans and other supporting material which has been developed and procured for GPLMS mathematics support in schools give clear guidance on the expectations of the policy implementation. Though coaches all key ideas can be further elucidated on a face-to-face bass with teachers further reinforcing communication of key ideas in schools.

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Evidence of a “mathematics philosophy” in GPLMS materials and training

Both the materials provided and the training offered by the GPLMS mathematics team should provide evidence of the underlying philosophical tenants of the programme – to teach mathematics in such a way that both understanding of concepts and procedural fluency are developed. Care is taken to provide lesson plans of high quality and which present material for teaching in a professional manner. Lesson plans should include all of the necessary content and direction for how to teach this content. Support for the lesson plans should be given in the form of learner material so that all learners can participate actively in the learning process with ease. Mathematics is a subject which is learnt through repeated exposure to concepts, practice and finally generalisation (internalisation) of the mathematical knowledge and skills on the part of the learner. Not all learners follow the same route to gaining this mathematical knowledge and thus provision should be made for multiple access routes to the concepts that need to be taught. While the lesson plans provide all the content and support for the teaching of this content through multiple opportunities on the part of learners they also assume fundamental professionalism on the part of teachers. Through long-term exposure to the lesson plans (supported by coaching) teachers will become more confident in the knowledge and skills needed for improved teaching and learning experiences. This is the maths team philosophy which will over time bring out the professionalism in teachers and reignite their confidence and joy in the teaching of mathematics.

One consistent message to all participants

For the success of the programme it is essential that one consistent message is conveyed to all participants and the maths team aims to convey one strong message to all teachers (and others in the school system) so that the goals of the project can be achieved.  Coaches are given guidance to see how the development processes of CAPS are embedded within the lesson plans and this message is conveyed at coach training sessions. Preparation is the key to successful implementation of the lesson plans – this message is conveyed with emphasis at every coach training session, to be passed on to the teachers in schools. Preparation assists with pacing, adherence to policy and knowledge preparation for the teacher. Ultimately the GPLMS mathematics team would like to convey the message that teaching is a profession and teachers must take on their professional role with enthusiasm and commitment to excellent, believing in themselves and accepting assistance when required to help them to achieve their full potential in classrooms in order to improve learning outcomes in school.

Successes
  1. GPLMS across the board is a powerful project. The Maths team has worked hard to align its offering with the GPLMS philosophy and offer teachers the best possible support for their mathematics teaching.  There has been high praise from many users of the lesson plans, district officials and participants in the greater implementation team. There has also been constructive criticism which is always carefully considered by the team and taken into account.
  2. Coach training has systematically aimed to develop the maths content knowledge of all coaches. Key content areas addressed at each term’s coach training session in addition to lesson plan implementation training.
  3. Input has been given each term at coach training to develop understanding of all elements of the maths lesson plans to ensure consistent and ever improved implementation of the lesson plans.
  4. The Lesson Plan template has been refined and simplified – ease of reference and reading facilitated. Plans are aimed at the GPLMS teachers for use in the typical GPLMS schools.
  5. Learner material extracted and provided in printable version at the back of lesson plans (FP and IP).
  6. High quality learner textbooks provided per learner in grades 4-6.
  7. Learners’ work has now been versioned (FP) – and the multilingual approach has been refined. This sets a precedent for national FP materials development.
  8. A glossary of FP maths terms has been developed (multilingual) to support the lesson plans. Another national precedent.
  9. Enrichment cards (FP) (stand-alone enrichment material) have been produced for use by teachers who have learners that work at a faster pace.
  10. Enrichment activities (IP) are included in every daily lesson plan.
  11. Remediation guidelines are provided to assist teachers to remediate weaker learners on a daily basis in lesson plans (FP and IP).