Moving to successful Maths Pathways

At the Siyaphumelela 2017 conference Dr. Bernadine Fong and Prof. Andre Freeman presented a keynote entitled “Getting ideas into action – the Pathways Instructional system” (available on our Youtube channel). They presented an alternative approach to teaching mathematics that makes use content relevant and useful to students and group work. The demonstrated that this approach greatly improved student mathematical proficiencies. In the subsequent discussion between the keynote speakers and the audience, it was suggested that a working group be established to address issues raised and to consider how the pathways approaches, successfully used in USA community colleges, could be implemented within a South African context. To this end, in October last year, Saide hosted a workshop titled “Maths Pathways” to start a conversation on how to improve the teaching of mathematics, especially in university ancillary courses, which often have high failure rates.

The workshop invited mathematics specialists from various institutions including Durban University of  Technology, Nelson Mandela Institute, Sol Plaatje University, University of South Africa, University of the Witwatersrand, University of the Free State and Vaal University of Technology as well as members of the Universities South Africa's Community of Practice for the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics. Issues raised during the discussion included:

  • Exploration of current pure, applied and ancillary mathematics courses at South African institutions,
  • The applicability of the Carnegie Foundation pedagogical pathways courses for quantitatively and statistically reasoning aimed at improving mathematics outcomes for students in South Africa,
  • A wish for a deeper understanding to this approach in the teaching of mathematics,
  • Investigations of the high mathematical success rates in countries such as South Korea, China and Japan, and
  • Exploration of funding opportunities.


The outcomes of the workshop were:

  • Saide liaises with Universities South Africa, particularly the TLM CoP, and the workshop group participants to formulate a national approach, which could include the development a credit-bearing higher certificate-level course, or qualification possibly based on the DUT model currently under developed,
  • The production of a national qualification based on the pathways concept to support the development of ancillary mathematics module for consideration and adoption by universities,
  • Consultation with the Carnegie Foundation to identify South African champions and to provide support for implementation, and
  • Approach the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) for funding to support the initiative.