In rural East Africa, Maths is traditionally viewed as a "hard, difficult and elitist" subject.The complex concepts and theories of maths, mean that the slow learners or the disadvantaged (many times the disabled, girls, and children in poverty or war-torn area) struggle to understand the subject. Furthermore girls are at times distracted from concentration by home chores, family obligations etc. Yet maths-based skills like problem solving and critical thinking are key skills for any career.
We have developed an innovative mathematics teaching approach that uses learning aids drawn from local culture to explain and simplify concepts to children. We have also developed a database to track the learning and progression in the class.
We would like to show disadvantaged children and their teachers, that maths is apart of everyday life. It is beautiful and relevant. It is a skill that they will need in order to progress and build a career.
Currently Rutindo is teaching 1050 children in North West Uganda: Pakanyi area, Masindi district. One major factor in the fear of maths is poor numeracy and literacy skills among primary school children. Thes children from mainly peasant families which earn less than 1 dollars a day, usually from farming. Most children are between the ages of 3 to 16. Girls account for 40%. The target is children from disadvantaged homes; (poverty stricken, warn-torn, displaced, in drought...)
Mission and Vision
To have rural-based and disadvantaged learners and teachers understand and appreciate the value of mathematics.
To increase the understanding and relevance of mathematics education among primary school pupils and improve the mathematics teaching skills of teachers in Africa.
Even if they are not going to school, children in rural East Africa make cultural artefacts. Many of these cultural artefacts are intrinsically very mathematical. Examples of crafts and trades include:- Hair Braiding, Making Mats, Weaving baskets, Knitting Table clothes, Making dolls, balls, Cultural dance.
The team at Rutindo has done extensive research on girls and maths, popularisation of maths, and maths in culture, in Uganda.
The homes in disadvantaged areas all have a bit of culture surrounding them. Our Intervention asks the parents and students to bring these artifacts to class. These are used to explain maths. In the process the community is propagating both culture and maths. This approach is LOWCOST and SUSTAINABLE.
Theory of Change:
Education systems are culturally embedded and, therefore, difficult to improve without understanding actions, beliefs, and attitudes related to education existing within the culture. Culture therefore plays a role in the teaching and learning of mathematics. Our project specifically dwells on the ways culture could benefit learners from disadvantaged parts of the world, including those in emergencies. At a societal level, culture can act as a medium of communication of mathematics, can be a glue, a transition bridge, and a liberator.
This approach uses already existing aids (culture is all around us). It is therefore a welcome route for families and communities to support heritage, preserve good traditions and strengthen culture. This encourages support from local leaders. It also builds a sense of ownership and a feeling of participation by the families. This in-turn makes the project sustainable. This approach is also a low-cost route because many artifacts are made from local and free resources. For example a ball from banana leaves, a mat from papyrus, braiding your own hair. Furthermore, there is the secondary benefit of passing on a skill or trade of craft making. This could turn build entrepreneurial ideas and opportunities in children. But perhaps the best advantage of culture is the simplicity and ease with which it illustrates particularly difficult maths / concepts: it makes maths a fun game, a joy, a basket, a hair piece, a clothe, a dance... (the child now realises why it is important).
Planned Goals and Milestones
We are extending our intervention to reach 250 teachers who will in-turn reach 10,000 children in disadvantaged areas.
We are going market and share our approach with institutions that work in difficult places and areas, because out tools are suitable in context of emergencies.
We are developing a tailor made curriculum with mathematics for specific careers, so that even youth can appreciate the simplicity and relevance of maths in everyday life.