Apr 2021 1st Edition

Make maths a part of your life

Written by Sphelele Ngubane

A Durban-based man is helping children fall in love with mathematics.

Any child can learn to understand mathematics, says Dr Simo Mthethwa (30), a maths lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.Dr Simo Mthethwa believes that parents have a vital role in encouraging learners to love maths.

He says parents must help break the misconception that the subject is difficult and that you either ‘get maths’ or you don’t. “Some people are born with analytical minds; however, even those who are not gifted with that skill can be trained to understand maths,” he believes.

It all starts in the home, Dr Mthethwa explains. He says children must not be given lots of information to memorise, but instead should do maths exercises regularly and be shown how maths is part of everyday life.

He shares that for the past five years, nearly half of the country’s matriculants writing the National Senior Certificate fail maths. The class of 2020’s mathematics pass rate was only 53.8%.

Mthethwa runs a non-profit organisation, Mthethwamatics, that offers tutorials and career guidance to learners in Umlazi, Durban. The organisation will be expanding to nearby areas this year.

Mthethwa’s advice to parents to assist their child with maths includes:

  • Learning does not start at school. What shapes a child is what they are exposed to and taught at home. If a home downplays education, a child is less likely to pay attention to school.
  •  Maths needs constant practice. Even though there are chores, children need to be encouraged to go through their maths book and worksheets.
  •  Set an example by committing to ongoing learning. There are many government programmes available for adults, like the Adult Basic Education and Training initiative that focuses on basic learning tools, knowledge and skills, and equips participants with nationally-recognised qualifications.
  • Children should be given maths problems to solve and not information to memorise.

Advice for learners:

  • Generally, a maths problem is solved after multiple attempts. Keep trying.
  • If you do not understand a concept, move onto something you know or like.This will give you the confidence and motivation needed to retry the exercise you found challenging.
  • Attempt to do the exercises in your textbook that your teacher did not tell you to complete. This will develop your skills.
  • Be consistent. Work out a timetable for maths and stick to it. The more you do something, the better you become at it.  

For more information, contact Mthethwa at 082 776 6660 or info@mthethwamatics.co.za

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