What is the maths4stats project?

The maths4stats project is one of Statistics South Africa’s series of activities initiated to encourage the development of mathematics education, which is an important bedrock for statistics. It represents an effort to restore numeracy and statistical literacy in South African schools.

What went wrong?

For South Africa, the urgency to develop mathematics and statistical education has been spurred by the after-effects of the interruption of a historically founded culture of counting. The Bantu Education Act (Act No. 47 of 1953) became the pillar of the apartheid project; a piece of legislation intended to separate black South Africans from the main, comparatively very well-resourced education system for whites. Authored by Dr H F Verwoerd (then Minister of Native Affairs, later Prime Minister), it established a Black Education Department in the Department of Native Affairs.

They were tasked with the compilation of a curriculum that suited the ‘nature and requirements of the black people. Mathematics was not seen as a part of this curriculum as Dr Verwoerd who, on 17 September 1953, in addressing Parliament was quoted as saying, ‘What is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice’. Thus Bantu Education was introduced in 1954, consciously de-emphasising the teaching of mathematics and science.

This cornerstone of the apartheid ideology in practice wreaked havoc on the education of black people in South Africa, and deprived and disadvantaged millions for decades. Its devastating personal, political and economic effects continue to be felt and wrestled even today because of the destruction of a generation of scientists, mathematicians and statisticians in South Africa. Further, the legacy of decades of inferior education (underdevelopment, poor self-image, economic depression, unemployment, crime, etc.) has lasted far beyond the introduction of a single educational system in 1994 with the first democratic elections, and the creation of the Government of National Unity. The challenge South Africa faces is to build capacity in mathematics and statistics.

Where did it start?

It all started in July 2002 when Statistics South Africa(Stats SA), together with the South African Statistical Association (SASA) and the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa (AMESA), co-hosted the 6th International Conference on the Teaching of Statistics (ICOTS-6) held in Cape Town. This conference is organised every 4 years by the International Association of Statistical Education (IASE), a section of the International Statistical Institute (ISI).
ICOTS-6 kick-started an outreach to local mathematics school teachers. This endeavour recognised the cross curricula need for data handling as an anticipated outcome, resulting in vast amounts of statistical material being included throughout the various phases of the new school curriculum.
This led to the conception of the maths4stats project where mathematics and statistics teaching interact to address the need for statistical development in South Africa.

Project goal

The goal of the maths4stats project is to contribute towards the organisation’s goal of building statistical capacity and promoting statistical literacy, with focus on developing statistics content knowledge for mathematics teachers.

Project objectives

  • To develop and support the teaching of statistics content in the schools’ mathematics curriculum.
  • To instil love and interest for statistics in teachers and learners.
  • To create a population that is enthusiastic about statistics.

As part of its campaign to develop the culture of mathematics and statistics education, Stats SA conducted a competition for grade 10 to 12 mathematics educators throughout the country. Forty-nine winning educators were identified and attended the International Conference for Statistics (ICOTS-7) held in Brazil from 2 to 7 July 2006. These educators formed the nucleus of the project and were trained on probability and data handling in anticipation that they would be in a position to train their colleagues in their respective provinces.
Meetings were held to plan for the roll-out of the project. Participants in the meetings comprised Statistics Council members, AMESA representatives from different provinces as well as Stats SA key staff members.
Stats SA has subsequently employed provincial maths4stats coordinators that would, together with the 49 educators, assist in the roll-out of the project in the provinces.

About the maths4stats logo


The logo is a visual representation of a large rock supported by a small stone. The large rock depicts the image of an iron ochre rock discovered in 2002 at the very tip of South Africa where scientists recently uncovered in Blombos cave, 300 kilometres east of Cape Town, some Palaeolithic art that dates back to 70 000 years. The iron ochre rock decorated with geometric patterns presumably represented some mathematical or geometrical meaning and methods of counting at the time.

The small stone represents small but systematic efforts to uphold, support and promote a culture of numeracy in South Africa and in Africa as a whole.

Training Workshops:

  • Mathematics Subject Advisors’ Training

    Stats SA, in collaboration with the National Department of Education, hosted a week-long Mathematics and Mathematical Literacy Subject Advisors’ Content Workshop at Diep in die Berg Conference Centre in Pretoria from 21 to 25 April 2008. The main purpose of the workshop was to develop subject advisors’ content knowledge and skills on data handling and probability that they enable them to share with and transfer to mathematics teachers in their respective provinces. Such knowledge and skills are essential for effective teaching and learning of data handling and probability of the mathematics curriculum.

  • Participants who attended the workshop

    One hundred and thirty (130) mathematics subject advisors from different provinces attended the workshop. Ms Jackie Scheiber of RADMASTE Centre at University of Witwatersrand facilitated training on Data Handling while Professor Delia North, Head of the School of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal provided training on probability concepts and theory. It was a hands-on workshop with participants given real life practical classroom activities in order to have a good understanding of the concepts. All participants were assessed at the end of the training and awarded with attendance certificates.The workshop created an opportunity for the provincial maths4stats coordinators to interact with the subject advisors in their respective provinces and discuss a way forward about the cooperation between Stats SA and the Department of Education for teacher