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Maths education receives R4.6m boost

South African impact investor, E2 Investments (E2) is investing R4.6 million in the non-profit social enterprise, Numeric, which delivers after-school mathematics to thousands of learners in South African primary schools. E2's investment will go towards sponsoring classrooms, building capacity within the organisation, as well as their potential expansion into other provinces. Over three years, this funding will enable 325 learners a year / 975 children to complete the programme and develop a strong foundation in maths, thereby equipping them for life-long success
© M R Fakhrurrozi –
This is E2’s first investment in the social entrepreneurship sector, in line with its mandate of supporting value-aligned social enterprises that create jobs and attack poverty. E2’s investment focus on social entrepreneurship runs parallel to its primary mandate of supporting Allan Gray Fellows to build and grow responsible, high-impact businesses. As the B-BBEE partner of Allan Gray, E2’s investment focus is on businesses created by historically disadvantaged individuals and organisations that support historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa.

Numeric’s mission is to address the critical shortage of maths skills in South Africa.

“With just four out of every 100 children who enter our school system obtaining more than 50% for pure maths in matric, we are not producing the doctors, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs etc. that we desperately need to build and grow our economy,” says Andrew Einhorn, managing director of Numeric.

Tackling maths crisis

The E2 grant announcement for Numeric comes shortly after the release of the 2017 matric results.

“A great many opportunities at tertiary level depend on learners obtaining a pass in pure mathematics in matric,” Einhorn says. “The fact that so few of these learners pass is a challenge for the country. These results can have devastating consequences for learners later on in life.

Building numerical foundations

Numeric’s approach to maths education is focused, simple, yet powerful. It focuses solely on Grade 7 learners. “With limited resources, our aim is to get as many children as possible to leave primary school with a strong foundation in maths,” continues Einhorn. “Interventions at high school level are too little, too late!”

Numeric’s results are impressive. In 2017 the average Numeric learner’s maths results improved by 52% over the course of the year – more than double that of non-Numeric learners.

Their approach is traditional: focusing on high-quality classroom teachers. They also focus on recruiting young coaches and providing them with intensive training. “Learning is a very human thing,” explains Einhorn. “It is about nurturing youngsters, encouraging curiosity, building resilience – the coach/teacher is key.”

“While there is much to be said for technology, our model is all about the teacher. The quality of the classroom teacher is the most important element,” says Einhorn.

Numeric has developed a low-cost, scalable model for the delivery of high-impact programmes in low-income areas that students attend after a full day at school. It currently operates 45 after-school programmes in Cape Town and Johannesburg, with 85 active coaches and 2,200 participating learners. Their intensive one-year syllabus covers arithmetic and pre-algebra.

“Because most South African children have developed gaps in their foundational mathematics, Numeric’s programmes are not curriculum-aligned, but focus on building mathematics intensively and rapidly from the ground up,” Einhorn adds. “A weak foundation in maths propagates inequality. A strong foundation gives people choices and empowers them.”

Two-pronged approach – twice as effective

“While the main focus of our programmes is to improve the learners’ maths, we are aware that, in the process, our coaches – many of whom are university students training to become maths teachers – improve enormously both in terms of content delivery and confidence. At the same time, they’re also earning money,” Einhorn says.

“With the average public school teacher teaching more than 5,000 learners during their career, any improvement we generate in these trainee teachers now will have positive and far-reaching consequences.”

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