Our Programmes

Introducing Family Maths

family-maths-logo-braitSometime in the mid-1990s we learned about the Family Maths programme developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science, an outreach unit of  Berkeley University in California.

The programme is based on the belief that all children can learn and enjoy mathematics and that parents – or caregivers – are the children’s first and most important teachers. However, most parents have not been given tools to show them how to support their children’s mathematical learning and for this reason the programme was established.

Family Maths was designed to get families learning mathematics together by doing challenging and engaging activities which both young and old could enjoy and solve without demanding high levels of maths.

The Family Maths programme at that time, while widespread in many school districts across America, had also been taken to places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Puerto Rica, and Mozambique in Africa. We read with particular interest of the experiences of some passionate and radical maths educators who introduced Family Maths in pockets of highly charged political regions We learnt how the programme helped to empower communities and transform approaches to and perceptions of mathematics education and that  how this  collective engagement  can produced improved learner results in the classroom.

Not long after these first enquiries, we were lucky enough to have USAID sponsor two cohorts of COUNT Staff, and partners from a community education project we worked with in Oukasie near Brits, to travel to Berkeley and receive hands-on training at the Lawrence Hall of Science from the experts who had designed the Family Maths programme.

On our return we began implementing the programme, either on its own as a supplementary after-school activity, or as an adjunct to work done in schools with primary school teachers. We have been doing this on and off in pockets of school communities ever since, and in 2012 we picked up the impetus to make this our primary and best supported programme,

Ccount-website-fm-4OUNT now implements a model of the Family Maths Programme, adapted for South African communities. The programme is crafted with input from leading research mathematicians, as well as educators, to awaken the ability to think mathematically and to take delight in solving challenging, non-routine problems in a playful atmosphere which encourages risk taking.

While some of the activities can be linked to the school curriculum, they go beyond it, covering important problem solving strategies, logical reasoning challenges, games and puzzles; that children are seldom exposed to in the classroom. These do not depend on the participating adults having high literacy or numeracy levels themselves.

Family Maths also helps to bridge the divide between parents and teachers and the school and the wider community.Through Family Maths, parents not only come to recognize that learning is a partnership of teachers, learners, and parents, but they are empowered to support their children’s mathematics at workshops and then in the home. Teachers welcome the difference the family maths programme makes on their learners’ interest, enthusiasm and love for maths, and recognise that when parents and grandparents or caregivers have tools they know how to use; they can actively support the child’s learning.

Primarily we use the original materials developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science as our main resources but have also added and adapted activities that are more appropriate  for local audiences and translated some of these into isiZulu.

family-maths-middle-schoolfamily-maths-manualsfam-for-young-childrenfam-maths-first-book t

To order these manuals directly, go to the  LHS shop: www. lawrencehallofscience.org

Venturing into ECD : The Family Maths Science, Literacy and  Life Skills Project (FMSL)


“Umndeni ufunda ndawonye”

 The COUNT Woz’obona Family Maths, Science and Literacy Programme (FMSL)

In the early 2000s, together with Woz’Obona, we conceptualised a version of the Family Maths Programme, aimed at younger children between 3-6 and their parent and caregivers. Called the Family Maths Science and Literacy programme (FMSL), it integrated maths, science and literacy activities that we hoped could easily be adapted and replicated in the neediest and most far flung areas.

We worked with both current Woz’obona staff and their ex-Director, Norma Rudolph, to establish a theoretical framework for a child-centred, mediated approach to conducting workshops for parents and children, based on principles of appreciative enquiry and guided participation. The primary challenge of the project implementation was in training workshop facilitators to mediate a reflective approach, that encouraged and inspired adults to interact with their children in an appreciative and supportive way, rather than just present the activities in a mechanistic way.

fmsl-2016-10-2The FMSL pilot was run in partnership with nine other ECD or community organisations from different provincial communities who had a shared interest in engaging parents /caregivers in young children’s educational growth and development. Our emphasis on the role of caregivers and not only biological parents, reflected a time in our country when the number of orphaned and vulnerable children was at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The programme was aimed at any older person, even a teenage sibling, that was entrusted with the care and development of young children, as the tragic wave of Aids wiped though the country and took with it their biological parents and grandparents too.



fmspc044_copyThe 3-year pilot saw pockets of communities, from Jo’burg to Sasolburg, from Knysna to Queenstown, Bela to Sekhukune, benefitting from attending regular workshops facilitated by both ECD trainers, community facilitators, and in some cases, high school youth who also had been trained.

Now they engaged, not only with maths, but also with science and literacy activities that created lots of excitement, discussion, questioning and fun! We were privileged to have legendary science educator, Dr Peter Glover, writing and training the science component of the programme. For many of the group of largely women being trained as workshop facilitators, this was their first hands-on experiences of science in action, with brilliant and clear explanations for the phenomena behind the activities. These trainers then passed on this experience to parents and children at their workshops.

fmsmipc009Once the pilot was completed, the partner agencies were free to integrate the programme and activities and adapt them for their own needs and purposes. Woz’obona, for example, made it integral to their growing work in Safety Nets for the OVC sector and still train home-based carers in their outreach programmes to use FMSL activities in the home to stimulate the young children in their care.

At the end of the pilot phase, we also wrote an ECD Level 3 elective course, focussing on working with parents and young children which is now accredited by the ETDP SETA.

Reviving FMSL in KZN 2014-16

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