Renewed Maths Hope

What we learnt:

The learning trajectory of the Students for Excellence programme (catching up 4-6 grades over a single year) can be replicated using a more scalable approach using personalised content guided by a facilitator. By focusing on the most fundamental concepts (the Numbers thread), some students experienced a knock-on effect other, more advanced, concepts creating an accelerated impact. Student engagement was observed to be a significant moderator to improvement, with the family circumstances contributing toward decreased levels of motivation.

The background

As part of their commitment to the community after building a windfarm in South Africa, a renewables construction company partnered with Harmattan Renewables and a local high school to invest in the education of young students. With only eight students in Grades 10 to 12 studying pure Maths as a subject in 2018, the school identified that increasing this number, along with improved achievement in Maths, as key goals for the programme.

The baseline results

At the start of June that same year, Reflective Learning diagnostics were run as a baseline with Year 8 and 9 students. Their overall results showed that the majority of students (71%) functioned between Year 3 and 6 level, with 5% being below Year 3 level. There also appeared to be difference in the base levels of students across the two Year 8 classes. The average attainment for the Numbers thread was 48%.

The intervention

Based on the learning gaps identified by the diagnostics, Reflective Learning provided personalised catch-up to build the students’ conceptual understanding in the Numbers thread of Mathematics, while embedding self-reflective activities to develop metacognitive skills. The teacher for the Year 8 and 9 classes created opportunity for the students to work through their catch-up in a self-study format on two afternoons and a Saturday morning each week, assisting them where required. The regular school curriculum was followed in class time, while an additional tutor was employed to assist students with curriculum content on a monthly basis.

Overall improvements

The overall mark of students increased by 12% on average, equating to an advancement 1.25 years in the space of four months. Class 8A had the largest improvement (17%) while Classes 8B and 9 had a lesser improvement (9% each). The majority of students functioned between Year 6 and 9 level (up from 23% to 54%) with no students below Year 3 level anymore.

Problems of engagement

It should be noted that there was a distinct lack of engagement across the two lesser-performing classes both during the intervention and when performing the summative assessment. When investigated further, it was discovered that the majority of these students had specific family circumstances which is likely to have been a moderating factor.

Improvements in Numbers

When examining the Numbers journey (the specific concepts targeted for remediation), average achievement increased by 16% across all classes, with Class 8A improving by 25% on average. Again, Classes 8B and 9 improved by lesser degrees. Perhaps a telling figure is that 55% of students achieved more than 70% for the target thread (up from 15%) indicating that the majority of students had reached a suitable level of mastery to move onto further work.

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