Make the tough choice – take pure maths

Cheryl James, CEO of Fasset believes there are very compelling reasons for learners in South Africa to take Pure Maths, rather than Maths Literacy as a Grade 12 subject. 

The fact that only a very small proportion of matriculants take Pure Maths is an on-going challenge for South Africa as a whole. In 2012, only 104 033 matriculants, roughly 30% of matriculants, passed Pure Maths. Of these, only around 6% obtained more than 60% in Pure Maths, enabling them to study Maths-based courses at university. 

The small number of matriculants with Pure Maths means there is a very small pool of young matriculants available to pursue careers in areas such as Accounting, Business studies, Engineering, Marketing, Economics, Science and Medicine. Unless more matriculants take, and also pass Pure Maths, skills shortages in these areas will persist, indefinitely. 

Proper career guidance is of critical importance. Sadly, despite the best efforts of various stakeholders, including Setas, career guidance in schools in South Africa, especially those in rural areas, leaves much to be desired. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that many schools actively promote Maths Literacy in pursuit of high pass rates; others do not even offer Pure Maths. 

The shortage of good, well-qualified Maths teachers is well documented. In order to increase the number of matriculants taking Pure Maths, we need to equip Maths teachers with the requisite skills and knowledge to ensure that they are both confident and capable of teaching Pure Maths. 

The dire need for good Maths teaching is reflected in the 2012 annual national assessment of Maths, where fewer than 10% of Grade 9s achieved more than 50% in the national assessments. Professional bodies and Maths graduates have a critical role to play in volunteering to empower Maths teachers through skills transfer. 

Learners, together with their parents should be told that Maths literacy is career-limiting. Learners and parents need to be well-informed: they need to be told that Pure Maths is a requirement for around 162 professions. Armed with this knowledge, parents may insist that their children take Pure Maths, rather than Maths Literacy, the ‘soft option’. 

If all else fails, learners should be told that research conducted by CNN confirms that that the top highest earning college degrees have one thing in common, Maths. Hopefully, this information will turn the tide. Instead of having a 90% pass rate in Maths Literacy and only 20% of pupils taking Pure Maths, we may achieve utopia, where 90% of pupils take Pure Maths, and through sheer tenacity and hard work, pass, many achieving 60% enabling them to pursue careers at university, in areas, which require Pure Maths. 

Fasset CEO, Cheryl James


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