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Sat Oct 01 19:15:05 SAST 2016

Extra maths lessons on MXit

SIPHO MASOMBUKA | 16 August, 2011 01:040 Comments

Image by: MARIANNE SCHWANKHART. 01/02/2009. © The Times

Parents who scold children for playing on their cellphones instead of doing homework, take note - they might actually be learning something.

Following an announcement by cellphone company Nokia and the Department of Science and Technology yesterday, more schoolchildren in South Africa are set to be able to learn maths on social network Mxit.

The Nokia Momaths programme allows pupils to get help online, perform more exercises and track their own progress.

Some 300 Grade 10 pupils from six schools in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and North West have been participating in a pilot of the programme since 2008.

Nokia and the departments of Basic Education and Science and Technology are now looking to extend the project to 40000 pupils in grades 10 and 11 at 150 schools in other provinces by the end of next year.

Nokia's Jussi Hinkkanen said the programme offered pupils lessons in mathematical theory. Examples are provided and pupils are taught step by step how to solve different equations.

"The programme is based on the social networking channel and everyone in the chat room is evenly connected. The teacher is able to support or monitor progress, enabling the teacher to see exactly who is performing well and who needs assistance," he said.

"Pupils are able to compare themselves with their peers. It changes the concept of learning . because they are able to access the network outside the classroom."

Many pupils had used the programme during the public servants' strike last year, when teachers stayed away from schools, and Hinkkanen credited it for the significant improvement in last year's matric maths results.

The Department of Science and Technology's director of information and communication technology, Isaac Maredi, said the project would be extended so its impact could be gauged on a wider scale.

"We have not determined provinces that will be covered in the next phase, but we are going to cover Dinaledi schools [which specialise in the teaching of maths and science]. We have 18 such schools nationally, two per province, and if we cover these it means we have covered all provinces," he said.

Also announced by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor was an agreement with other technology players on developing other ways in which cellphones can be used in education.

Pandor said of all regions of the world, Africa had achieved the greatest increase in mobile phone penetration in the past decade.

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