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24 June 2020
No more maths woes - UWC teaching graduate assists parents and learners online

Picture caption: Wiskunde Juffie (Young Maths Teacher) Lizette Booys provides free online primary school maths tutoring to parents and learners. 

(Published - 24 June 2020)

A maths wizard to the rescue! There isn’t a more apt time to provide free online help to parents and learners when it comes to primary school mathematics than during the current challenge posed by the COVID-19 lockdown.

University of the Western Cape (UWC) Education graduate Lizette Booys received her honours degree at the most recent virtual graduation ceremony in April. The bubbly and resourceful educator is already making a meaningful impact at a much bigger scale - living the ethos of UWC, which is community engagement.

Although just two months old, her blog and YouTube channel, Wiskunde Juffie (Young Maths Teacher), already boasts 983 subscribers, with 10,100 subscribers on her Facebook page. The audience includes parents and learners from all parts of the country.

“I always wanted to start a YouTube channel. I love that I can contribute to parents who aren’t able to help their children,” says Booys.

The Eerste River resident graduated in 2013 and started teaching at various primary schools. She later completed her honours degree in the Faculty of Science and Mathematics Education in 2019.

The teacher with the pleasant voice says, “The idea was only to overcome the main obstacle: navigating non-contact tutoring while under the Covid-19 lockdown - a job I do part-time - and also to assist my own learners as a teacher at West End Primary School in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. But now the idea with the channel is to support all learners and parents in need of help with mathematics homework.The lessons are targeted at grades four to six learners and are all based on the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). I use various resources  and focus on the homework from the Department of Basic Education workbook after each lesson. I then give feedback on the correct answers.”

And the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It inspires me to be receiving messages from parents, learners, teachers and even education students watching the videos I create. Parents watch them to support their children, teachers to learn new teaching techniques and get fresh ideas, and students use it to support them with lesson planning and assignments,” she says.

“It's really rewarding when I receive these messages. It keeps me going and motivates me. Needless to say, to see my channel growing beyond my initial target market, is a plus for me. It makes me feel like what I do is even more effective and rewarding.” 

But the job has its challenges.

“I present predominantly in Afrikaans, because I want to cater to the Afrikaans community, since I am Afrikaans speaking. I am at an English medium school, so I have to make sure the lessons are in English as well. This way I also cater to a broader community of viewers or a larger audience.  It is time-consuming and adequate data is often a challenge for me,” she says.

“What makes my training as a mathematics teacher from UWC unique is definitely the fact that I joined Ledamthali Mathematics in my final year. It is a project where mathematics educators, mathematicians and mathematics curriculum advisors work collaboratively to further a good standard of teaching mathematics.

“It is this kind of collective work that can lead to learners achieving their highest potential in mathematics. I've learned so much from this team of educators in our regular workshops and I'm very pleased to have been trained by a family of lecturers from UWC.

“Having conversations about methodology with trained professional mathematics teachers and curriculum advisors is an absolute honour. I feel like that is something very special that the University of the Western Cape offered me. I don’t think I could have received this level of expertise from any other university.

“My lecturers have been very supportive throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies and I feel blessed to have them as part of my network,” says Booys.

The bright young teacher adds: “My philosophy as a teacher is to make kids fall in love with mathematics. I think if we lose them at primary school level, the chance at this will be lost forever.

“So, to me, success depends hugely on the passion and dedication of the mathematics teacher and the subject advisor.

“In South Africa there is unfortunately a lack of passion for teaching the subject, especially from teachers not trained to teach mathematics. And that, I think, is one of the biggest shortfalls at primary school level. Unfortunately, many teachers are not specialists in their field and the districts are not offering them enough support to become successful at teaching maths.

“Other key challenges include learners not being taught the correct way to study and being passed (promoted) to the next grade with as little as 20 percent of the content knowledge they need to succeed. This leaves them with a massive gap in knowledge.  

“By the time they reach their next grade it is a constant attempt at catching up on fundamental skills. They end up losing confidence and starting high school with this massive gap and with a fixed idea that mathematics is difficult, which isn’t really the case.

“It is very important for the primary school foundation to be laid firmly, and the only way we can really do this is to focus on proper training for primary school maths teachers. That needs to be our focus as a country and we need to get the kids to love maths again.”

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