1 Million NumberSense Workbooks
- Press release article prepared by Kim Stephens
As the team at Brombacher and Associates packs their one millionth NumberSense Workbook to send out to yet another learner in a growing community of young South Africans that benefit from the series, the success of these workbooks makes perfect sense.
As the team at Brombacher and Associates packs their one millionth NumberSense Workbook to send out to yet another learner in a growing community of young South Africans that benefit from the series, the success of these workbooks makes perfect sense. NumberSense Workbooks continue to gain popularity in schools across South Africa, with many schools embracing them as their “mathematics programme”. Truly a South African solution for South African schools, the workbooks focus on sense-making, understanding, reasoning and the development of fluent and flexible calculation strategies, thereby supporting a more meaningful experience of mathematics for children.
In a report published in 2014 by the South African Department of Basic Education, the national test instrument results yielded a drop from an average 56.2% in Grade 3 to 37.3% in Grade 4 for mathematics*. The NumberSense and Companion Workbook Series was created in response to the South African reality in which many children’s mathematical careers end as early as Grade 4. The Brombacher and Associates group believe that the reason is quite simple: in the absence of sense-making, young children typically develop a wide range of idiosyncratic calculation strategies (rules) which appear to provide “correct answers”. As the number range in which children work grows, these strategies increasingly let children down, causing struggles, frustrations and children eventually giving up on mathematics. In all its applications, the NumberSense series allows for differentiated learning support, independent engagement by children and the opportunity to experience mathematics as a meaningful sense-making activity.
Owner and founder of Brombacher and Associates, and a well-respected researcher in the field of mathematics education, Aarnout Brombacher, explains the positive impact that NumberSense Workbooks have on teaching mathematics in South Africa: “Too many learners rely heavily on memorizing rules to solve math problems, rather than being taught to understand mathematics. Our workbook series recognises children’s inherent ability to make sense of situations, and supports them in developing and formulating efficient sensible solutions. We are seeing improvements of as much as 20% from one year to the next in the mathematics grades of schools that apply the full workbook series.”
JumpStart, a non-Profit and Public Benefit Organisation that works primarily to improve mathematics in 19 primary schools in the Free State and Gauteng, have incorporated the NumberSense Workbooks as their primary teaching aid. Stephen Mahony of JumpStart outlines the success of the workbook series: “We have found that the NumberSense workbook activities are helping to incrementally bridge the gap from elementary rote learning to the engaging domain of problem solving. It’s the interaction between the learners and the teachers around these activities that is lifting the learning dynamic of mathematics in our classrooms.”
One of the governing objectives of NumberSense Workbooks has always been to remain as affordable as possible, enabling broad accessibility to the workbooks. In addition to their use in schools, the workbooks are used in a range of CSI funded projects, with some of them reaching up to 20 000 students from under-resourced learning facilities in one academic year. The grade 1 to 3 workbooks are published in all official South African languages, and a combination of web-based user guides and downloadable print masters of teaching aids, as well as regular teacher and parent user workshops in major cities further enhances the accessibility and understanding of the workbooks. With one million NumberSense Workbooks in circulation, the Brombacher and Associates group sees no end to the journey, and looks forward to the continued development of richly illustrated and engaging workbooks that remain responsive to the developmental needs of children, are informed by current research on how children learn mathematics and provide a comprehensive mathematics solution for Grades R to 7. It simply makes perfect sense.