People 'n' Issues

Maths mat helps young pupils jump and learn

October 22nd, 2015
CSIR researchers have developed a game that enables pupils to practise their multiplication tables and counting in a fun and interactive way. The Maths Mat system is designed for early primary school pupils, from Grade 1 to Grade 4.
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The Maths Mat consists of a mat with colourful numbers that are designed to be jumped on by participants to enter the correct numbers for the desired multiplication table. The numbers on the mat are electronically connected to an external box that displays the number that was jumped on as well as whether the answer was correct or incorrect. Colourful, flashing lights make up an abacus that also displays the numbers in a different format to assist in the learning process.

In addition to the flashing lights and number displays, the Maths Mat also produces sounds to indicate whether the answer was correct (happy tune), or incorrect (sad tune). Once the pupil completes the whole multiplication table correctly, the Maths Mat plays a happy tune with flashing lights. The teacher is able to control the Maths Mat either through the mat itself (in configure mode), through the external box with displays, or through a small portable wireless device with a screen. Teachers can select the multiplication table to be carried out, and the pupil jumps from number to number to practise their multiplication tables. The Maths Mat gives feedback to the pupil each time by displaying the number that they jumped on and also letting them know whether their answer was correct or not through visual and audio feedback. “I think this will be a great way to encourage kids to learn maths,” remarked Elmarie Fourie, a headmaster at the New Horizon Private School near Groblersdal, Limpopo.

Background of the Maths mat
In keeping with the mandate of the CSIR, the mechatronics and micro manufacturing research group did not hesitate to act when Johan du Toit, a maths teacher at the New Horizon Private School approached them with this concept. He had the idea to develop a mat for children to learn maths in a fun way, and needed someone to develop this concept into a working system. The project started in August 2014 and has been successfully developed into a first functional system. The first version of the Maths Mat was shown to Du Toit and the headmaster of the school early this year, with a number of pupils from Grade 1 to Grade 3 experimenting with the Maths Mat. The system worked well and the teachers were impressed by the functionality and potential of the system. The pupils enjoyed the experience and quickly gained confidence in their abilities and coordination while carrying out their multiplication tables using the Maths Mat.

Future of the Maths Mat
CSIR project leader, Mariette Conning, says illiteracy and its costs to individuals and society have long been a focus of concern in South Africa. A corresponding illiteracy in mathematics – innumeracy – has received increasing attention in the last few decades. She says endeavours like these are a crucial part of an integral process of teaching and learning to close the innumeracy gap in the country.

The group of researchers has approached different schools about the Maths Mat and received positive feedback. “The interest in the Maths Mat by teachers at various schools has been substantial and we are confident that Maths Mat has the potential to be a great success and be high in demand in the public domain,” says Conning. The team is working on advancing the system and adding more functionality.

– Source News24

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