Issues in communicating mathematically in rural classrooms in South Africa

Author: Kakoma Luneta

How effective is rural school teachers’ communication of mathematics? There is great concern about their strategies and teaching skills and how they communicate these skills mathematically in the classroom.

This study of 240 rural schools developed an instrument for evaluating how teachers communicated concepts and evaluated learning. A set of words and statements were numbered A to P and evaluated against the frequency with which they were used in 20 lessons (where 1 = low; and 4 = high). These teacher activities were:

Explaining (A)

Sharing (B)

Prompting/Cueing (C)

Leading/ Directing (D)

Focusing (E)

Directive Question (F)

Linking (G)

Peer tutoring (H)

Affirmation (I)

Modelling (J)

Reviewing (K)


Requiring learners to:

Predict (L)

Represent (M)

Justify (N)

Construct (O)

Describe/Explain (P)


Explaining (Code A), Leading and directing (Code D) as well as Directive Questioning (Code F) often occurred, showing that the teachers were very dominant in their instructions and that learners were hardly given a chance to participate. Codes L to P were the least common, which implied that rural teachers’ communication in Mathematics hardly required learners to Predict, Describe, Justify, Represent or Construct mathematical knowledge.

The teachers were mostly ‘under-hearing’ learners, ignoring their responses and only looking or listening for the correct answer. Many teachers were conducting Mathematics lessons in the vernacular, and had difficulty explaining concepts in English. This was not only a problem for the teachers; learners too could not cope when instructed in English, despite the fact that national examinations are in English.

In addition, it is impossible to teach mathematics effectively without good assessment strategies, as assessment determines learning and enhances learning outcomes. It is therefore important for mathematics teachers to know and understand why we assess, because assessment provides a goal and motivation for learning

Teachers in rural schools require a professional development programme that addresses their lack of content knowledge and their teacher-centred instructional skills. They need training on how to develop assessment tasks and test item development in Mathematics, as well as effective Mathematics communication skills that put learners at the centre of the classroom discourse.

Full Text

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *