This has been our approach for our whole programme. The newest part of this programme is our work with Grade 2 learners. In the Grade 2 programme we use innovative teaching methods. We teach mathematics as a language through practical participation in activities, as well as the performance of different tasks in everyday situations.
The lessons create new opportunities and flexible approaches to defining and solving mathematical problems. Practical activities help the learners to be more involved and alert to their environment. Thus, they understand better, because they are actively involved in die learning process.
The teaching of concepts and activities reinforce and integrate mathematical understanding and mathematics as a language, which is necessary for advanced mathematical problem solving.
What is the evidence on which their work is based?
The driving ideas behind the MathMoms programme are attachment, resilience, and safe spaces. Through an approach informed by attachment theory, the MathMoms teach learners (and themselves) to be resilient, while also creating a space where the child feels secure, recognised, respected, and within which they can thrive.
Attachment theory was developed in the late 1960 by John Bowlby. Bowlby believes that humans have a genetic predisposition to form attachments as a means of survival. It is for this reason that infants and young children seek proximity to their caregivers – the child is seeking security and protection. The caregiver’s response to the child’s proximity has a deep impact on the child’s development. A positive and welcoming response breeds trust, strengthens the relationship, and makes the child feel as if they have a safety net to fall back on in times of need. Where the reaction is negative or negligent, the opposite – feelings of insecurity and anxiety – is the case.
It is important to note that a child’s future is not completely determined by how he/she experiences attachment as infants. Other factors and positive experiences with caring adults later in life can also have an influence. The MathMoms aim to provide these “positive experiences”. In recognising the importance of forming attachments, the MathMoms provide care and attention that the children may not necessarily find at home or in the classroom. A secure and trusting relationship between a care-giver (or caring adult) and a child increases the child’s social competence.
How did the project come about.
Beginning in 2014 Sonja Cilliers, in cooperation with the Chief Education Specialist of Metro North had more than 3000 interventions with learners, teachers and (since 2016) parents. The learners were traumatized by violence, deaths, as well as by feelings of not fitting in and being marginalized.
In the process she came to know:
- the sometimes unthinkable levels of trauma in some learners’ lives (due to experiences such as rape, or the murder of a beloved);
- the strength and resilience of some of the parents;
- the real desire of parent or care givers to help the learners;
- the low level of positive parental involvement in schools;
- the reality of a considerable number of teachers being traumatised themselves, because of the demands made on them well as the challenging behaviour of many learners;
- the lack many learners have of truly healthy relationships with trustworthy adults;
- the negative influence the learners’ desire to fit in has on their choices;
- and the possibility that the learners’ desire for acceptance can be used as a positive influence on their choices.
From all this grew the realisation that the people of the community hold the keys to success, their own and that of the learners, in their own hands. They only need the opportunity to discover their own potential. The keys must be left in their hands, because only they can unlock the door to safe communities. These women become “lighthouses” in the community, because traumatised learners know they have somebody they can go to.
Which social problem(s) are you addressing through this innovation?
The following problem(s) are among those addressed:
- Poor mathematical skills of foundation phase learners in underprivileged schools
- Trauma in communities due to crime, gang violence, and unemployment
- Lack of an emotional and physical safe environment in which learners and adults can develop and grow
- Unemployment and financial instability of school parents
- Poor parent involvement in school activities
- Overworked and stressed teachers
- Lack of income and opportunity for women in the community
- Women who, for various reasons, where unable to complete their schooling, receive the opportunity for further growth (we are working on the possibility of transforming our programme into a formal accredited vocational NQF5 Course).
- Giving people within traumatized communities healing and hope through TRE and skills development.