About halfway through Grade 9, learners have to start thinking about their subjects for Grades 10 to 12, with consideration for the impact of that choice on their potential future studies and careers. It is a big decision to make. For those learners who struggle with or do not enjoy mathematics, the choice between Math or Math Lit can be a tough one – a head vs heart debate.
Put your 15-year-old self in the shoes of those learners.
On the one hand, Math causes stress, it’s difficult and uncomfortable, and you don’t reach any sort of satisfactory mark. Dropping Math would make your school life easier and more enjoyable. On the other hand, you are 15 and have no idea what you want to be when you grow up. Everyone around you is telling you that if you don’t know what you want to be, you HAVE TO take Math (and Science) as it keeps the most doors open. So, it’s a debate – drop Math, be happy, close doors or take math, struggle, probably not do well, and MAYBE keep doors open.
Now put yourself in the shoes of the parent.
If you’re a parent, you want the best for your kid. Everything that can be opened should be. You understand that your child’s enrollment in Math Lit may preclude him or her from pursuing some other academic paths. However, you also want what’s best for your child’s happiness and health (physically and mentally). You’ve seen what happens when your kid struggles with Math… however, Math Lit is often portrayed negatively in the media and even among some students at their schools.
Well, I believe we need to ignore the stigma.
I have done research about and with the Math Lit curriculum, and I have also taught it. Let me tell you that, in my opinion, it is both a beautiful and robust curriculum. It is a practical and illustrative subject embedded in real-world experience and, if implemented correctly, can set our learners up to be fully capable and contributing members of society. I believe that for many learners, there is much more to be gained from enjoying and willingly engaging in Math Lit than mentally and emotionally struggling through Math, only to receive marks that often don’t meet university entrance criteria.
It is often the case that, although the fifteen-year-old doesn’t yet know what they want to become, they have established fields of interest and skill sets they are developing. I argue that these interests and skills should be the driving force behind their decision to take Math vs Math Lit. In those cases where it does not seem the healthy nor necessary option, Math Lit should be promoted as an assertive and positive choice rather than letting the learner feel that they have ‘dropped down’ to Math Lit.
I hear your thoughts, though….
But what if they change their minds about what they want to do when they get to matric, but they cannot switch back to Math? It is a valid concern and happens every year. The good news is that matric is by no means the end of the road, nor are you limited to the subjects you wrote in your final school year. We have often had clients we refer to as post-matrics. These clients opted to improve their matric results and get their matric in math when they had taken Math Lit in school. They enrol for the matric exam as private candidates, with only Math (and sometimes Science) as their subject. They then seek out professional institutions such as ourselves to work with them through the Math curriculum from Grade 10 to 12 in one year.
It is a lot of work, but the pressure is much less.
These learners have time to focus on Math alone without the demands of school events and other subjects. An added benefit is that these learners are 3 years more mature than the 15-year-old who last feared Math as a subject. Their brains have developed and matured since then. Their emotional intelligence has grown, and they tend to display an increased ability to engage with the work. It is not a stress-free process to do a post-matric. The learners that have come through our doors have been much better geared to deal with those stresses and, in most cases, obtain the marks they need to pursue their ‘new’ career choice.
Some people may argue that they have lost a year in this process. I believe they gained 3 years of Math Lit knowledge that can benefit them. Knowledge about the tax system, reading financial statements, sound financial management, personal and business, and problem-solving in the real world. It is a skillset and a body of knowledge they bring into their chosen field of study and career. No knowledge gained can ever be wasted, but the repercussions of not protecting the holistic health of our learners can reach far into their adult lives.
For the love of Math AND Math Lit,