8 years + lots of tinkering = 0: School maths still fails varsity students
Those who were taught from a knowledge-based curriculum did no better that their outcomes-based counterparts
Repeated changes to high school maths lessons in the “outcomes-based” era have added up to a big fat zero.
First-year natural science and engineering students scored exactly the same in a maths multiple choice test in 2015 as their counterparts did seven years earlier: 66%.
In 2009, when first-year students at North West University had studied a third curriculum, the average mark plummeted to 57%.
Sonica Froneman and Mariette Hitge, from the Potchefstroom university’s school of mathematical and statistical sciences, said their findings undermined perceptions that students of an outcomes-based curriculum had poorer basic maths than those who had studied a knowledge-based curriculum.
“Other factors, such as school management or general societal changes, or technological innovations, should be considered as an explanation of so-called grade depreciation,” they said in the SA Journal of Science.
The academics said the post-1994 upheaval in education had presented a unique opportunity to compare the basic maths knowledge of students who had experienced three different curriculums between grades 10 and 12.
The 2008 students were the last to study a knowledge-based curriculum; those who arrived between 2009 and 2014 had outcomes-based lessons outlined in the National Curriculum Statement; and the 2015 cohort were the first to study a revised outcomes-based course documented in the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement.
Froneman and Hitge said they wanted to compare the three groups in light of complaints from their colleagues that first-year students lacked understanding of fundamental maths concepts.
Their findings showed this was untrue with the exception of the middle group, who suffered because some topics of Euclidean geometry were moved from the core curriculum to the advanced programme (AP) maths syllabus.
“The results signal that the omission of certain basic topics can be detrimental to the preparation of learners for tertiary studies where knowledge of these topics is important,” said Froneman and Hitge.
The multiple choice test the three groups of North West students wrote included questions on algebraic skills, functions and graphs, trigonometry, geometry and differentiation.