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Mathematical Literacy in South Africa – an opportunity for shifting learner identities in relation to Mathematics


Mellony Graven, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa




Mathematical Literacy, Identity, Confidence



Mathematical Literacy (ML) was introduced in schools in the Further Education and Training (FET) phase (grades 10-12, learners mainly aged 15-18) in South Africa in January 2006. The subject is structured as an alternative option to mathematics, and all learners entering the FET phase since January 2006 are required to take one or other of these two options. ML is defined as a subject driven by life-related applications of mathematics that must develop learners’ ability and confidence to think numerically and spatially in order to interpret and critically analyse everyday situations and to solve problems (DoE, 2003). Emphasis in curriculum documents on developing ‘mathematical’ competence and confidence, and ways of being and acting in the world, highlights the aim of developing positive mathematical learner identities. Evidence from schools suggests that in practice, ML is not being offered as an open choice to learners. Learners with weak mathematical histories, competence and confidence are generally the ones being guided towards taking this new subject.