Introduction Of Seriously Addictive Mathematics In South Africa

Award Winning Math Curriculum

This article serves as an introduction of SAM (Seriously Addictive Mathematics) in South Africa as a program that supports Singapore Mathematics Pedagogy as a drive to increase the Human Capital of South Africa. Children that are taught to think Mathematically, not just in terms of numbers and operations, but procedurally, with a focus on Mathematical language, will be able to integrate what they learn in the classroom as part of their skill set that will serve them in the future. What they then bring to the workplace will serve their country.

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International benchmarking exercises shine a bright light on the great diversity in Math results globally, both between countries and over time. Organizations like the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study trends from TIMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) to make conclusions regarding education, policies, and learning. The OECD concludes that Math results directly reflect a country’s human capital, as applying knowledge in real-life situations reflects a probable return on investment – an excellent measurement for future economic growth. 

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People and the collective knowledge they generate make up the capital of organizations. The transformation of knowledge is critical in business; together with the skills of individuals, it forms the Human Capital of organizations. 

A study conducted in China, with more than 10 000 students, show that developing countries tend to focus on Vocational Education and Training to support human capital development. This study proved it not to be the answer to building human capital in developing countries, as Vocational Training increased dropout numbers, especially among disadvantaged students, leading to absolute reductions in math skills. It is clear from the International TIMS (data from 71 countries) and PISA (data from 65 countries) assessments that the Math, Science, and Literacy results of high-income countries are much higher than those in developing countries. A focus on these subjects will lead to more significant results when aiming to support the human capital development of youths. The trends in 21st-century skills measured through these assessments can benefit all countries positioning themselves for future growth.

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The South African Curriculum is premised on the view that inclusive education provides the cornerstone of an integrating and caring society, where the needs of diverse learners are met in regular classrooms, a picture of inclusivity and equality. Singapore, however, moved away from a one size fits all approach in the 1900s. Their curriculum has prepared their students to reach the top mathematics and science scores in the international TIMS and PISA assessments. Singapore also pledged to view intelligence as an essential national and international human resource, gearing its curriculum towards preparing talented youths for responsible leadership and service to the country and society. In contrast with South Africa, they focused on multiple pathways to reduce dropout rates and improve quality education to achieve economic goals.

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Many non-cognitive factors predict achievements in mathematics, like study skills, confidence, self-efficacy, and personality traits. A study in the U.S. on math attitude found that subjective norms and behavioural control beliefs of students influenced their intention to pursue Math further in the future (21,1%), to engage with learning Math (59,4%) and directly impacted their performance in Math (30,7%) (5). Applied research on the effects of attitude interventions demonstrated that experiential learning improves attitude. Focussing on mathematical literacy(formulating situations, reasoning mathematically, and employing mathematical tools – in other words, being versed in quantitative reasoning), not just algebraic functions improve students’ attitude toward Mathematics. The engagement of students promotes more positive norms. Instructional practices are essential to ensure Mathematics achievement; children need to know that what they are learning is relative to solving real-world problems. Formative feedback is necessary to ensure mastery when learning; students’ self-efficacy can be encouraged through communication in the classroom and supported reflection based on students’ learning experience. 

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When tacit knowledge converts to explicit knowledge, learning takes place. Figurative language and symbols form the basis from which insights and perceptions can be articulated. Six out of ten adolescent individuals worldwide cannot meet basic proficiency levels in mathematics and reading. The gap between schooling and learning is even more significant in developing countries, as found in the study of measuring human capital using global learning data. The Singapore Math Framework focuses on problem-solving through teaching practices where students learn concepts, skills, and processes through metacognition and specific attitudes.

The Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework for South Africa, released by the Department of Basic Education in 2018, on teaching mathematics for understanding emphasizes the importance of conceptional comprehension, procedural fluency, reasoning, and strategic competence in the model for mathematics teaching and learning. 

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Seriously Addictive Mathematics is a Singapore Math Enrichment Program that brings the Singapore pedagogy to the South African classroom. The program focuses on problem-solving and developing a deep understanding of math through relational teaching and the implementation of concrete aids and visual models.

This program allows for genuinely individualized learning while focussing on the right attitudes by making Math more visual, interactive and fun. The SAM Trainers undergo training to support them in coaching methodology that encourages dialogue and linguistic skills and the opportunity to think about their thinking in a small group setting. Seriously Addictive Mathematics function either as extra classes based on the Singapore Curriculum at School or independent franchise businesses where entrepreneurs with a vision to impact the education and human capital development sector in South Africa gets the opportunity to grow their own small to medium enterprise. When students understand Mathematics, the usefulness of mathematical thinking skills and learn to love the subject and their results will improve. 

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Post Script

The Singapore Mathematics Framework allows for instruction in Mathematics by focussing on skills, concepts, attitudes, metacognition and processes through a focus on problem-solving. Seriously Addictive Mathematics as a business venture, and a means to introduce Singapore Mathematics to young children, aims to improve the Human Capital of South Africa, one student at a time. For more information, please get in touch with the author, Karma Palmer, at karma@seriouslyaddictivemath.co.za/ +27 (0) 82 071 5669, or follow the enquiry link on www.seriouslyaddictivemath.co.za if you are interested in enrolling your child or starting a SAM Franchise in your area. 

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Reference and Further Reading

·     Angrist, N., Djankov, S., Goldberg, P. K., & Patrinos, H. A. (2021). Measuring human capital using global learning data. Nature (London), 592(7854), 403-408. 

·     Calábria, F. A., Melo, Fagner José Coutinho de, Albuquerque, Andre Philippi Gonzaga de, Jerônimo, T. d. B., & Dumke de Medeiros, D. (2018). Changing the training paradigm for learning: A model of human capital development. Energy & Environment (Essex, England), 29(8), 1455-1481. 

·     Gjicali, K., & Lipnevich, A. A. (2021). Got math attitude? (in)direct effects of student mathematics attitudes on intentions, behavioural engagement, and mathematics performance in the U.S. PISA. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 67, 102019. 

·     Loyalka, P., Huang, X., Zhang, L., Jianguo, W., Yi, H., Song, Y., Shi, Y., & Chu, J. (2016;2015;). The impact of vocational schooling on human capital development in developing countries: Evidence from China. The World Bank Economic Review, 30(1), 143-170.  

·     Mathematics Teaching and Learning Framework for South Africa (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bridge.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Mathematics-teaching-and-learning-framework.pdf

·     Milne, A., & Mhlolo, M. (2021). Lessons for South Africa from Singapore’s gifted education – a comparative study. South African Journal of Education, 41(1), 1-8. 

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