A group of University of Cape Town (UCT) alumni are determined to help solve South Africa’s numeracy crisis by using technology and a unique catch-up model.
Reflective Learning is an online application designed to identify which foundational mathematics building blocks are missing from a learner’s development. The app takes the process a step further by providing a personalised catch-up course tailored to each learner’s needs.
“Learners who struggle with maths often think they’re not good at it and can’t get any better. But the truth is, those learners who struggle have often missed fundamental building blocks from earlier grades,” said Eugene Pelteret, co-founder of Reflective Learning.
According to research conducted by Reflective Learning, more than 60% of high school learners experience “foundational gaps” in maths. This, he explained, means they’ve missed out on basic maths principles in earlier grades, which makes it difficult to learn and understand the content taught it class today.
But the application seeks to address this.
“There is no silver bullet to learning maths. It will always take work on the learner’s part.”
Reflective Learning assesses where the gaps are, how far back they stretch, and helps the learner to “rebuild any missed understanding, using a logical learning pathway”. It gives tutors and teachers an opportunity to focus on problem areas and speeds up the catch-up and learning process dramatically.
“There is no silver bullet to learning maths. It will always take work on the learner’s part. But with Reflective Learning, we have approached the challenge quite differently,” he said.
“Understanding what the learner does and does not know gives us the opportunity to target the gaps in their knowledge. If you don’t know where the problem is, how do you solve it?”
In a nutshell
Simply put, Pelteret said the application provides a diagnostic assessment of the learner and identifies the gaps in learning across 81 “critical” maths concepts.
Thereafter, Reflective Learning provides learners with a personalised catch-up course via the application. Research conducted by the team proved that learners who adopted the Reflective Learning model caught up as much as four grades in a single year. This helps learners get to the grade level they need to be at.
“We reach right back to grade 1 if it’s necessary to rebuild understanding there, regardless of the learner’s current school grade,” he said.
The application’s learning approach also helps to build a learner’s metacognition (awareness and understanding of individual thought processes), which assists the learner to take “ownership” of their learning. Teachers and parents can also track learners’ progress over time.
The ultimate goal
Pelteret said Reflective Learning works with learners from grade 3 to grade 11, but its primary focus areas are grades 8 and 9.
“We help to build a deep understanding of maths concepts.”
This helps to ensure that learners who are preparing to make subject choices at the end of grade 9 catch up with maths in order to increase the number of learners who will choose “core maths” at the start of grade 10. This, he said, will open additional doors once learners reach university level.
“Choosing maths in the further education and training phase opens greater opportunity for careers later on,” he added.
Reflective Learning has already partnered with many schools in several provinces around the country to assist teachers and learners with mathematics; the process has proven to be “effective”.
“Teachers are in a very difficult position. They have large groups of learners, all at various competence levels, all with very different gaps in their knowledge,” Pelteret said.
“This is where we step in. We help to build a deep understanding of maths concepts.”
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