Linking Mathematical Literacy to ICT: A Good Mix for Community Development in South Africa

Linking Mathematical Literacy to ICT: A Good Mix for Community Development in South Africa

Tshele Moloi (University of the Free State, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-117-1.ch018


Finally, there is need to indicate the relationship between mathematics/mathematical literacy and ICTs. In this chapter, the two are seen as inseparable. In everyday life, a person is continually faced with challenges that call for mathematical skills, such as financial issues (hire-purchase, mortgage bonds, and investments), understand house plans, read a map, follow time table, et cetera; with the usage of ICT these can be done very fast and accurately. It is of utmost importance that a person must have a sense and knowledge of Mathematics, so as to detect mistakes committed by the usage of ICT.
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In 1994, the South African democratic government introduced the new curriculum in all South African schools. The new curriculum, Outcomes-Based Education approach, targeted to redress imbalances of the past, which were created in different social groupings. One such imbalance was the teaching of mathematics to all South Africans. During the apartheid regime, the majority of the blacks were not allowed to study mathematics and science related courses as they were considered to be superior to other courses. This means that many still lag behind with this knowledge which is so much needed in today’s world of technology. Mathematics, mathematical literacy and ICTs have a relationship that cannot be ignored.

To offset inadequacies of the past educational systems, the Outcomes-Based Education is aimed at bringing about the skills, knowledge, attitudes and values which can be used to develop South Africa. Du Toit (2008:42) stated that instead of a gradually phasing–in the new curriculum, the National Department of Education decided to implement the more radical transformational OBE in South Africa. Moreover, the decision was taken to adopt a radical approach by simultaneously reforming all aspects of the education system, namely, outcomes, learning content, teaching methods, and modes of evaluation.

The legacy of apartheid left unbearable repercussions and further exacerbated conditions of irrelevance in the teaching and learning of Mathematics and other related fields. The country is faced with a situation where there is a huge scarcity in the Science, Mathematics and Technology (MST) fields. Previously South Africans were made to believe and understand that such subjects are only for non-blacks. Even today, in the teaching of Mathematics, Science and Technology subjects, majority of blacks still perceive that these subjects can only be mastered by whites. Vithal (2005) noted that in the apartheid era, Mathematics curriculum was driven by an ideology that was characterized by a deep disrespect for indigenous knowledge. The new curriculum has infused indigenous knowledge in Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy curriculum, hence DoE (2003) viewed indigenous knowledge systems in the South African context as a body of knowledge embedded in African philosophical thinking and social practices that have evolved over thousands of years. DoE further pointed out that Mathematics has often been used as a filter to block access to further or additional learning, not only in Mathematics itself but also in areas and careers related to Mathematics. The past political history of our country is a prime example of how the deliberate lack of provision of quality learning for all in Mathematics was used to stunt the development of the majority of people. DST (2004) pointed out that under apartheid, IKS in South Africa, as well as practitioners within such systems, were marginalized, suppressed and subjected to ridicule. This had profound negative effects on the development of South Africa’s economy and society, resulting in the distortion of the social, cultural and economic development of the vast majority of its people. Across every measurement of socio-economic status and well-being, and across all age groups, geographical circumstances and both genders, indigenous people are severely disadvantaged. The disadvantages they face have potential to increase and further entrenched the disparity between indigenous and other sectors of society over the coming decades, unless greater effort is made now to redress the on-going inequalities, not least of which is in respect of the knowledge systems of indigenous communities and specific knowledge traditions within these, such as guilds of traditional healers and specific knowledge traditions held by women within communities. DoE emphasized that, it is crucial that in the teaching and learning of Mathematics, stereotyping needs to be guarded against, as Mathematics is often seen to be male preserve, leading to arrogance and domination by boys on the class. The interest of all needs to be taken into account in providing access to Mathematics.

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