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Starting high school, my daughter continued to excel in Mathematics until the wheels came to a grind in Grade 9. I enrolled her with Master Maths when she started high school. Her performance began to drop. I asked for a reason, and she said she does not like Master Maths and she prefers to have a one-on-one class. I then got a tutor to do that and the performance did not improve still. Upon asking the tutor, she indicated that for any child to get the maths skills right, they need to dedicate at least 30 minutes daily to practising maths. Otherwise, mastering maths will be a challenge.

Then my daughter complained about the teacher. We then got another young man to help her. Her marks improved by 40%! She passed her grade 10 maths well. She then asked that she not get a tutor. She will be fine. Her marks dropped again. At this stage I was frustrated as a parent and spoke to different people about a possible solution. Then someone suggested Kumon Maths programme. The condition was that she must be willing to work hard. I told her that this is my last attempt to help her. She bombed out of the Kumon programme. I decided to take over and personally continue with learning Maths.

I then realised that there is a lot of work involved. I decided to bite the bullet and continue. It was hard and I questioned my sanity. The reason I enrolled was to find out what the problem is and how I can be of help to the many African children who, it is reported, struggle with Maths. There were sums that I had to complete in 20 minutes and it took me an hour to do, sometime more. There were times when I would have a headache just thinking of the mathematical problems I must solve. There were times I struggled so much and had to ask help from my children and my teachers. My children had this arrogant satisfactory look as if to say “Yes mama, so you thought it was easy. You always had a lot to say about our Maths competence”. For me, giving up was not an option. I have a reputation to protect.

As I write, I am doing level G (equivalent of Grade 8-9) and going strong. There are a few basic lessons/discoveries I learnt since I started.

- Many children are robbed of understanding Mathematics at the foundation grades. They struggle at high school because their foundation of maths is built on sand.

- As a result of this, a superstition has been created about the fact that Mathematics is difficult. The corollary of this is that many of the children do not take Mathematics.

- Government supports the superstition that Mathematics is difficult and that is why Mathematics Literacy was introduced to accommodate this superstition. This of course comes at a great cost to the progress of our children and the progress of the economy of our country.

- When our children do not take up Mathematics as a subject of choice, they close up access to over 100 career choices. We then complain about unemployment of graduates. The Department of Education (both Basic and Higher Learning) has a list of top 50 careers in South Africa. All 50 of them have Mathematics as a requirement.

- When the child is not prepared to put in an hour a day in practising Mathematics, they will be lucky to get 30%. It is hard work.

- Our schools teach children to answer Mathematics question papers and not to understand and know Mathematics. It is possible to get a good Mathematics grade at Matric and still not know it.

- Not every child will do well in Mathematics despite the help given. They might not like working with figures or with numbers. Unfortunately, even those with potential to do well in Maths are not unearthed because of weak teaching of Mathematics at foundation phases.

- Even thought a child has the ability to do well in Mathematics, they might not like it. They might have their sight on another career which does not require Mathematics.

- Maths requires patience and observation. After doing the sums, I have an answer book to mark my script. In the beginning, when I was marking, and found that the answer in the book is different from mine, I argued that the book is wrong. The book is never wrong. I have since discovered that I need to work on my sum and find my mistake. Sometime I will work a sum more than four times and get the same answer, different from the correct answer in the book.

I therefore urge you, as a parent, to check with your child if they are willing to work hard before they take up Maths. Enrol them for extra Mathematics classes while in Grade 1 already. Nip it in the bud! It will be money well spent.