In September 2016, we began the rollout of an online interactive mathematics teaching and learning programme called MathsBuddy at one of the four primary schools, Xhora Mouth JSS, that we work with in the Xhora Mouth Administrative Area. The programme is being implemented in partnership with the school and has the support of the Principal, Deputy Principal and teachers.
The programme is in English and covers the South African curriculum from Grade 1 to Grade 12 and until now has only been available in elite private schools. We installed a satellite internet connection at the school, procured 35 durable tablets (with long battery life), subscribed to MathsBuddy and registered 65 Grade 1s onto the system. Each child has a unique login for the programme, and the programme records the progress of the learner (in live time) and adapts to each child’s strengths and weaknesses.
We run the programme using the “teaching at the right level” pedagogical approach which according to the latest research is the most effective way of consistently improving learning outcomes. This requires grouping the learners according to their learning level. We ran a range of diagnostic tests to assess the children and group them into three different groups: amahashe (horses), iintaka (birds) and iinkomo (cows). The learners are then allocated tasks to complete on the programme which are tailored to their level and which they can complete at their own pace.
The running of the programme with 35 learners is supported by seven facilitators. Our facilitators are recruited from our community, have completed school and have a relatively good command of English. They have been trained on the tablets, the programme, and how to provide the necessary assistance (which includes necessary language translation) to the learners. Each facilitator works with a group of learners who are at the same learning level. Typically the ratio of Community Assistant to learner is 1:3 for the “iinkomo” group; 1:6 for the “iintaka” group; 1: 7 for the “amahashe” group.
In just three months, we can see such a difference. The fast learners are flying through the curriculum while intensive support is provided to the lowest performing learners, ensuring that they remain stimulated and are not left behind. The learners remain incredibly enthusiastic about the programme (sprinting to the gates even in the holidays) and the teachers and parents remain eagerly supportive.
We are planning to expand to the other 3 primary schools in our area over the next three years. To find out more about how you can support us, click here.
 J-Pal “Teaching at the Right Level” available at: https://www.povertyactionlab.org/scale-ups/teaching-right-level.