How are our students coping with Maths?


Hi, my name is Tracey Butchart and for more than thirty years I have been working with Maths students and teachers and researching the best ways to successfully learn Maths. I have created formative assessment software taken up by three provinces in South Africa, consulted for departments of education, and set national exams. Currently, I’m completing my PhD in Maths Education through Wits University. My own personal learning journey has been so exciting that I want to share the insights I have gained with as many teachers as possible. The first place we would have to start is the state of school mathematics.


The Status of Maths in South Africa

  • Less than half of SA learners actually study pure mathematics
  • Only one in five learners pass mathematics with 50% or more
  • This means 90% of South African learners are not mathematically equipped for the many domains of knowledge
  • Maths cuts across many domains of knowledge: physical sciences, life sciences, medical sciences, engineering, technology, commerce …
  • This doesn’t only compromise learners’ work opportunities, it compromises our communities, our economy, our country
  • But this is not just a South African problem.


The Status of Maths in the World

UNICEF has described the state of world education as a “global learning crisis”. And it truly is for mathematics in particular:

  • Across the African continent, from South Africa to Kenya, from Tanzania to Ghana, poor maths achievement have been documented
  • In India, national survey evidence shows that only 27% of Indian children who have completed Grade 7 can perform the maths skills they should have learnt by the end of Grade 2 (a backlog of 5 years)
  • In Brazil, nationally only 45% of Grade 3 learners have “adequate maths knowledge”
  • In the USA, a study shows that nearly half of students who have completed Grade 12 have a mathematical proficiency level of Grade 7 (a backlog of 5 years)
  • Within most European countries, there are large inequalities in maths achievement particularly between immigrant and native communities
  • Even in high-performing Asian countries such as China, there are inequalities in maths education and achievement between rural and urban communities, impoverished and wealthy and even between male and female learners

We need to learn as much as we can about the nature of the problem:

  • why are learners struggling?
  • what exactly do they struggle with?
  • how can we fix the problem?



What is really exciting is that I have seen learners that have struggled with mathematics turn around their performance really quickly and how they did that is what this course is about!