Dispelling false myths

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

Mathematical literacy as a tool to dispel erroneous myths about mathematics as a difficult subject will be in the spotlight at Wits University on May 22.

Hosted by Marang Centre, the university's mathematical literacy research, education and training centre in Parktown, Johannesburg, the seminar starts at 3pm.

Panelists and maths experts Hamsa Venkat, Mellony Craven and Iben Christansen will interact with delegates on the topic: Moving beyond mathematical lenses for viewing Mathematical Literacy.

According to Thutong, the national Education Department's education and training news, affairs and trends portal, mathematical literacy means different things to different people.

"What seems to be a point of convergence is that some mathematical knowledge is necessary to solve some problems encountered in life," Thutong says.

"Do we need some form of mathematical literacy or some mathematics to be able to interact with problems that involve mathematics in life? It is on the basis of this that defining mathematical literacy would depend on its utilitarian value one attaches to the subject.

"Some of the different names used around the world to refer to the subject are quantitative mathematics, mathemacy and numerical literacy. But in South Africa, mathematical literacy is used to refer to the subject that deals with everyday problems that require the use of mathematics."

Paul Laridon, a maths expert and author of Classroom Mathematics, says mathematical literacy provides pupils with an awareness and understanding of the role of mathematics in the modern world.

"Mathematical literacy is a subject driven by life-related applications of mathematics," Laridon says.

"It enables pupils to develop the ability and confidence to think numerically and spatially in order to interpret and critically analyse everyday situations and solve problems."

Education Minister Naledi Pandor, patron of the Sowetan and Telkom Foundation-sponsored Aggrey Klaaste Maths, Science and Technology Educator of the Year Awards, is leading a campaign to ensure that each pupil not taking mathematics should take mathematical literacy, to nurture a maths-literate society.

The South African Qualifications Authority's regulations require that all pupils in high schools take credits in mathematical literacy