AIMSSEC joins the online educational wagon in style!

The Mathematical Thinking (MT SAMO) Course was the first fully online course ever offered by the organisation. It started on 17 August 2020 following the cancellation of the residential module in June 2020 for MT33 due to COVID-19. The pandemic has really compelled most educational institutions to resort to online platforms to satisfy their clients, and AIMSSEC is not an exception in this regard. The MT SAMO course format is a combination of home-study, writing assignments and participation in three live sessions on Saturdays via Google Meet and Google Classroom.

The MT SAMO Course is based on a teaching strategy that engages students regularly in problem solving. The course is especially suitable for mathematics teachers from schools that enter learners in the Old Mutual South African Mathematics Olympiad competitions. This professional development course is designed to support and help teachers to cope with the difficulties this pandemic has caused, with some learners in school and some at home, and often-alternating in between.

In the MOU between SAMF and AIMS South Africa, one of the main areas that AIMSSEC contributes to is to improve professional development of South African mathematics teachers in terms of technology, pedagogy, and subject content knowledge (TPACK).

Table 1 below provides a summary of the elements of the three course SAMO Teacher Professional Development Project.

Project Elements Indicators Targets Measures
Changed teaching practices to improve understanding ofmathematical concepts by teachers and learners.
A growth mindset.
Successful completion of the AIMSSEC courses and continuation to the next level.
A merit pass required to proceed to the next level.
Ninety teachers to complete the first course in 2020.
Seventy teachers to complete all three courses by the end of 2022.
Registers, recording results of five assignments.
Final pass mark 50%
Merit mark 65%
Distinction 75%
Improvement in performance in mathematics.
Problem-solving culture established in the schools.
Application of new knowledge and skills. SAMO problems used.
AIMSSEC teaching and learning resources used.
General improvement in interest in mathematics and performance in competitions, tests and examinations. Feedback from lecturers, tutors, teachers and head teachers through questionnaires and interviews.

A research team led by Prof. Caroline Long and Dr Adriana van der Nest, conducted an independent evaluation of the MT SAMO 1 course. Their final report stated :

“In summary, the Mathematical Thinking online course has made gains in the development of mathematical knowledge, and the mathematical thinking that is associated with this knowledge. Within the course, formative assessments, Assignment 1, 2 and 3, provided a thorough assessment of the students’ current knowledge having completed the three sections of the course, Algebra and Number, Geometry and Measurement, and Probability. With the post-test, gains were evident in the geometry questions, that is from the time of that Assignment 2 was completed to the end of the course.

Of particular note is that teachers in remote rural areas are able to access the course. Also given the AIMSSEC philosophy of sharing the information teachers receive from the course with colleagues, the extent of the reach into rural areas is even greater. It was clear from our interactions with the AIMSSEC staff on a few occasions, from early Skype meetings, to an in-person meeting on the 24th of November, that the staff can be described as reflective practitioners, and that they model such practice to the students”.

The same report concluded: “Clearly, the three months experience with the MT SAMO 1 online programme has contributed to an improvement in the quality of teaching and learning for all the participants. Moreover, the implementation of the new knowledge and skills gained from the AIMSSEC MT SAMO 1 programme enhanced the participants’ motivation and autonomy to be agents of change in their classroom. The MT SAMO programme has helped teachers to overcome their initial experiences of constraints as their engagement in the course assisted them to increase their level of agency”.

The report alludes that: “Given the exceptional circumstances of the nationwide lockdown, we further commend AIMSSEC on the extent to which they have enabled teachers from the rural areas, as far afield as Mt Ayliff in the Eastern Cape, and teachers from the Quintile 1 & 2 schools, to take part in the course”.

 

AIMSSEC’s historic achievements and the way forward

The Mathematical Thinking course has been conducted thirty-two times since 2004 for 2094 teachers from different South African provinces, with the course recently being done completely virtually for the first time due to the pandemic. This course is used as a selection instrument for enrolment into the six further AIMSSEC Subject Leader Training Courses in the sequence that equips teachers to be Heads of Department, teacher trainers for an NGO or subject advisors for local government. The MT course is endorsed by the South African Council for Educators (SACE) for twenty professional development points. Both versions of all seven courses: online or blended learning (with a residential component) will be registered for SACE endorsement and professional development points.

As stated earlier on, The SAMO Online Courses are for mathematics teachers from schools that have entered their learners to take part in the South African Mathematics Olympiad (SAMO) organised by the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) and sponsored by Old Mutual. This MT course was designed to support teachers through the period at the end of the 2020 academic year, when the schools were partially re-opened, with some learners in school, and some at home, operating in the extraordinary conditions necessary due to the pandemic.

 

The Structure of the course, modules presented, and the course presenters:

Table 2: Modules presented on Google Classroom to Senior Phase teachers

Period Presenter Topic Format
Weeks 1 & 217 – 30 August Cynthia Fries
Volunteer from UK
Algebra & Number Study Guide plus

Assignment

Weeks 3 & 4
31 August – 13 Sept
Elizabeth Turok
AIMSSEC lecturer
Geometry and Measures Workbook which included an assignment
Week 5
14 – 20 September
Themba Moyo
AIMSSEC lecturer
Probability Study Guide plus
Assignment
Week 6 & 7
21 Sept – 4 Oct
Toni Beardon
Volunteer from UK
Pedagogy Study Guide plus
Assignment
Week 8 & 9
5  -18 Oct
Toni Beardon
Volunteer from UK
Pedagogy Study Guide plus
Assignment

 Table 3: Modules presented on Google Classroom to FET teachers

Period Presenter Topic Format
Weeks 1 & 2
17 – 30 August
Liezel du Toit
Local lecturer
Algebra & Number Study Guide plus
Assignment
Weeks 3 & 4
31 August – 13 Sept
Barrie Barnard
AIMSSEC lecturer
Trigonometry and Geometry Study Guide plus
Assignment
Week 5
14 – 20 September
Themba Moyo
AIMSSEC lecturer
Probability Study Guide plus
Assignment
Week 6 & 7
21 Sept – 4 Oct
Toni Beardon
Volunteer from UK
Pedagogy Study Guide plus
Assignment
Week 8 & 9
5  -18 Oc
Toni Beardon
Volunteer from UK
Pedagogy Study Guide plus
Assignment

A notable problem faced during the live broadcasts was low attendance. However, opportunities were created for teachers to watch live recordings during their own time. Material was also made available by the presenters so as not to exclude teachers who may have missed the presentations. Links to the live webinar sessions were shared both on Google Classroom and on WhatsApp to enable multiple platforms for the teachers to remain connected.

Results and quality of the passes

Summary of results

Table 4: Summary of final marks

Number of FET students Number of SP students Total % of 102 students
Distinction 24 Distinction 20 Distinction 44 43%
Merit 11 Merit 13 Merit 24 24%
Pass 9 Pass 8 Pass 17 17%
Fail 1 Fail 2 Fail 3 3%
Did not submit all assignments 8 Did not submit all assignments 6 Did not submit all assignments 14 14%
Withdrew 3 Withdrew 4 Withdrew 7 7%
Total 56 Total 53 Total 109

In summary, the findings indicate that the teachers have experienced growth in both their SCK and PCK because of the MT SAMO intervention, especially in Algebra and Geometry. They generally agreed that they are more confident in the development of their teaching skills and how they deliver content to their learners.

It is therefore clear at this stage, that AIMSSEC provided opportunities for the students (teachers) not only to develop knowledge and skills regarding subject content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, but also to become reflective practitioners.  Teachers also indicated that they value the learner–centred approach of the course.