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Exploring the Nature of the Gap between Secondary School Mathematics and First-Year University Mathematics: The Case of South Africa

Journal: International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR) (Vol.7, No. 2)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 795-803

Keywords : Secondary school mathematics; university mathematics; gap; major course; curriculum;

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This study explored the mathematics knowledge gap between secondary school mathematics and first-year university mathematics. The study was prompted by the alarming statistics of mathematics, science and engineering students who are failing first-year university mathematics. This has resulted in low throughput and high attrition rates among the current cohorts of university entrants in South Africa. The study employed the documentary analysis research method to collect qualitative data to explain the research phenomenon. Data were collected from the secondary school mathematics Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for the Further Education and Training (FET) Phase, and from mathematics syllabi of the three top universities in South Africa. Results obtained revealed that the mathematics we currently teach in South African secondary schools is a very small portion of the range and depth of topics covered in first-year university mathematics major courses. The gap is so enormous that the majority of students will not survive the workload. The study concluded that South African secondary school mathematics in its current stature does not serve its intended purpose of preparing students for higher education studies, particularly for prospective mathematics, science and engineering students. The researcher strongly recommends a transformation of the South African secondary education system to allow students to specialise in only three subjects that are directly linked to their future studies, at Grade 11 and 12 levels. This would make it possible to introduce at secondary school level essential topics such as integration, complex numbers, differential equations, vectors and matrices which are missing in the current South African mathematics curriculum.

Last modified: 2021-06-28 18:40:06