End of October 2014, VVOB Zambia organised an exploratory mission on pre-mathematics. Two Flemish experts in the field of Early Mathematics, Mrs Marleen Duerloo (Flemish Institute for Catholic Education) and Mrs Annemie Merckx (University College Odisee) visited the country with the purpose of gaining insights in local knowledge and practices in order to support the development of a training programme on pre-mathematics teaching for early grades.
The visits to Colleges of Education of Kitwe and Livingstone and the meetings with the lecturers provided the visitors a good overview of how Zambian teacher training for early childhood education is organised. Also very exciting was chatting with the toddlers themselves. Together with the in-service coordinators of both Kitwe and Livingstone, Marleen and Annemie had the opportunity of visiting five Early Childhood Centres in rural and peri-urban areas. Most classrooms were decorated with self-made teaching charts and little else in terms of teaching aids. The teachers, some trained others not, some paid others volunteers, were all delighted to talk about their challenges in teaching pre-math.
It was soon clear that the main challenge to teachers in early math lies more in the limited capacity and know how to use materials than the lack of materials, already a big challenge in itself. Through the use of specific games and low-cost teaching and learning tools, the Flemish visitors made clear the link between 'play' and teaching pre-math. By incorporating math activities, early childhood education gives children the basic math concepts they will need for primary school. Pre-school activities often focus on problem-solving skills that are useful in primary math. That is why even small kids like to solve pre-math games like hide and seek, piling of blocks, making mirror necklaces, constructions and Sudokus.
Play and Early Math
"Ah, I know these games, but I never thought they were also linked to mathematics." This comment of a lecturer summarises the findings of the mission and the objectives of the upcoming training workshops. Teachers are often not aware of the link between play and the teaching of early math.
The training on strengthening the pre-math teaching will be organised by VVOB Zambia in October 2015, and will target both in-service and pre-service providers.