By Ronald Chanetsa
The Penreach approach to the centrality of teaching basic numeracy in the Foundation Phase is not for children to know everything, but to think logically and come up with a solution.
THINKING MATHEMATICALLY MEANS CHILDREN ARE TAUGHT TO BE INDEPENDENT THINKERS WHO CAN TRY AND SOLVE PROBLEMS ON THEIR OWN.
As such, the Penreach model for Foundation Phase numeracy places emphasis on the use of visual aids such as a print-rich classroom, recycled materials like bottle-tops as counters and, where possible, Legos.
Once children practically engage with mathematical concepts, it establishes a firm foundation for other technical subjects in the Intermediate and Senior Phases, namely Natural Science, Technology and Computer Science.
Numeracy is taught for mastery, and not just for testing. As such, practical objects like building blocks and cards, help children think practically. As the term “foundation” suggests, numeracy in the Foundation Phase can lay the fundamentals upon which everything logical, scientific and mathematical in the latter years, including the work place.
Unlike Singapore, world number one ranked in Mathematics and Science, South Africa faces the challenges of a developing country, as such the Ehlanzeni Region in Mpumalanga. Penreach target schools, where Maths and Science intervention are established, are based in very poor and extremely rural locations with government feeding schemes in almost 100% of our schools.
Despite these circumstances, the importance of Numeracy and Mathematics remains the same for the child in Ehlanzeni as it is for the child in Singapore. Therefore, the Penreach approach is teaching the Ehlanzeni child the same numeracy concept as the child in Singapore in a manner that is socially relevant, practical and contextual by empowering educators and HODs as custodians of curriculum management.
It should be noted that you cannot teach a content subject like Mathematics in a vacuum and that is why Penreach model – The Asifundze Numeracy and Literacy Programme – is a two pronged approach linking Mathematics and Languages (both Home Language and English).