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Ubuntu Maths Institute: Maths Festivals

By Odwa Sivunga

The main idea of Maths festivals is to gather people around and explore maths through math games. The Ubuntu Maths Institute believes that each and every person can do maths. The most frequently asked question is whether there’s an age restriction to maths festivals and the answer is no. Most of the festival tasks are accessible for every age, skill level and background. Ideally, it is believed it’s better to do maths alone, that being a great mathematician requires isolation; our maths festival tasks highlight and value the importance of collaboration - with materials, learners and teachers.

We found grouping learners develops their thinking early: working with their peers harnesses their perspectives and skills. They learn to think comparatively, it shifts their mental frame

of reference and instigates deeper learning. One of the outcomes we hope to further increase with the maths festivals is confidence in learners abilities to do maths. Creating open ended activities feeds into their creativity, resulting in deeper engagement which allows them to want to do more challenging tasks leading to growth in confidence.

Though our designed festival tasks are for everyone, our focus has been on pre-primary, primary and high school learners. We’ve visited a number of schools in the Western Cape as well as some of the schools’ study centres. The schools we visited were based on our collaboration with Ikamva Youth afterschool maths program; we used their afternoon tutoring sessions for grade 8 and 9 to run maths festivals for approximately two hours a session.

We’ve also reached some foundations that do homework sessions with leaners around their communities i.e Sozo Foundation that is situated in Vrygrond, Capricorn. We were part of this year’s Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa(AMESA) at UCT as well as in George as part of the Activity Centre. We have worked with a number of schools outside of the Western Cape and outside the country, with our director, Neil Eddy, who has recently been to Namibia, specifically Windhoek, in August.

Currently we’re running festivals for grades 4-7 at Ikamva Labantwana in Crossroads. One of the few skills we’re hoping to instill in these learners is the ability to visualise numbers without counting. Most learners can count, but may not know how to identify the same number using different pictures that give the same number, basically quantifying numbers.

Essentially, these learners are meant to know how to substitute and we have games designed to enhance this skill as it becomes more important as they move up to high school maths. The designed games can go as far as testing multiple concepts in one, such as whether learners can identify the numbers, visualise and quantify them; they get to use their creativity in grouping the cards and more. The game on the bottom picture makes use of prior knowledge of shapes, colours, as well as numbers; here critical thinking is developed as learners need to think carefully as to where they should place their next cards.

We are available to visit schools and study centres or foundations to assist learners with fun ways of learning maths. You can find most of our work and resources on our website

Alternatively, you can find us through facebook: as well as on Instagram:

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