Online maths platform launches new competition as it steps up battle against maths crisis 

Online mathematics learning platform MathsGee is launching a knowledge competition aimed at Wits University maths and engineering students, another step in its goal to address the country’s maths crisis. 

Pass rates in mathematics in South Africa have been on the decline in recent years. Almost half of the students who take math in matric, the final year of schooling, fail. In 2020 the pass rate was 53.8%, down from the 54.6% recorded in 2019. The result is a lack of students entering the engineering and commerce fields, skills badly needed by the economy.  

The pass mark for the subject is 30%, which makes the pass rate more alarming. The minimum mathematics mark universities require for degrees in fields like engineering and medicine is 60%. 

MathsGee provides a forum for students to send in maths related questions. The questions are then answered by teachers on the system, while other students can also provide their own answers, which can be “liked” or “disliked”. 

It was founded by Edzai Zvobwo, data scientist and chairman of The Education Support Forum (TEDSF). Zvobwo said the knowledge competition seeks to encourage more students to use the platform by incorporating a points-based system, which rewards students for their engagement. 

“We need to be able to support more students during the pandemic,” says Zvobwo. “The aim of the competition is to raise awareness of the platform where there’s a free platform where you can get support and support others”. 

Some of the ways students can gain points include posting questions, answering questions correctly and gaining likes on their answers. 

The Wits MathsGee site launched in August and is zero-rated for students on the Rain, Telkom and MWEB networks. This provides students with a low-cost opportunity to access information curated around the courses taught at Wits. It is however not officially affiliated with the university. Zvobwo hopes to be registered as an official club soon.

An honours computational and applied mathematics student at Wits, who prefers to remain anonymous, joined the platform in March 2020 after finding it on her LinkedIn feed. The platform helped her during the early stages of lockdown when remote learning was taking place. 

“I really enjoy this platform, mostly, because of how it is easy to navigate. Topics are arranged in a way that is easy to navigate. They don’t just give an answer, but they also provide explanations of the approach they use.” she said. 

MathsGee is currently engaging with the department of education to get additional funding for the site.  

FEATURED IMAGE: A mathematics textbook on a desk. Photo: Zano Kunene