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Maths coaches making a difference

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“I also love working with my mentor, a teacher, it has improved my confidence and I feel like I have a purpose in life”

WHILE some children have soccer or netball coaches, the Grade 4 pupils at Kareeville Primary School in De Aar have a maths coach in the form of Renalda Adolf.

Adolf said yesterday that she was energised by the difference she makes in the lives of the young pupils she teaches.

She joined the school three years ago and believes that with the support of the school and the teachers, the pupils are benefiting both academically and developmentally.

“The children and teachers really appreciate the extra help that we as maths coaches provide. I feel that without the maths coaches, the children would struggle in maths and other subjects. I’ve been able to make a big difference to the children, in their marks and their behaviour as a result of the positive working relationship that I have with the teachers,” explained Adolf, who started as a maths coach in 2018, as part of the De Aar Solar Power’s Numeracy Programme.

Mathematical achievement in the primary years is an important predictor of future academic performance. Grade 4, in particular, is an important phase as pupils focus on multi-digit multiplication and division, learning to use bigger numbers, solving multi-step word problems that involve several operations, and they start studying fractions and decimals, so it is critical that they don’t get left behind.

Speaking about how becoming a maths coach has impacted her life, Adolf says, “I have always wanted to work with children, so it is wonderful that I can now work in my community and make a difference. The parents appreciate me and the community recognises the good work that I am doing with their children, plus they know that I am someone who is making a difference in the community, not just at the school”.

Adolf is one of two maths coaches at the school, and concurs with Leo-Patrick MacKay, who works with Grade 6 pupils, that the large classes mean that teachers aren’t able to give the necessary time and attention required by the children who have fallen behind. This is a vicious cycle as without the help of the coaches, neither the pupils nor the teachers would be able to catch up.

By working with small groups, but mostly individually, Adolf has the opportunity to really make a difference and improve the pupils’ fundamental understanding of maths and to grow their confidence.

“I have the opportunity to get to know the child as an individual and to understand, where they struggle and how I can help them in the way that they learn best. This makes a huge difference to their marks, their confidence and also the relationship that I have with them,” added Adolf.

De Aar Solar Power’s Numeracy Programme has been implemented in partnership with the Northern Cape Department of Education. The programme addresses key issues relating to foundation phase numeracy, which is supported by trained maths coaches as well as school maths clubs.

“I also love working with my mentor, a teacher, it has improved my confidence and I feel like I have a purpose in life. I wake up every morning knowing that I can teach a child something, that I can help them to leave school saying ‘I learnt something new today’,” concluded Adolf.