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Just do it

By Carol Butcher

Nike’s “Just do it” tagline, launched in 1998 is one of the most memorable taglines of all times. It is sheer brilliance. Ironically, these were murder, Gary Gilmour’s last words.

News headlines over the past few weeks have been particularly bleak. Many of us have faced a personal quandary – should we reach for our Valium, our favourite bottle of Scotch, or simply dial an emigration expert’s number?

A random list of depressing headlines includes: “Gigaba’s budget ‘a statement of the crisis the country finds itself in’,” “Lonmin to lay off more by year end,” “Gangster’s paradise latest crimes stats show Gauteng – the country’s richest province – is also the most dangerous,” “Customer service in SAPS ‘appalling’,” and “Life Esidimeni death toll climbs to 141.”

Amidst all of this doom and gloom, I was thrilled to come across the following headline in The Star on October 24 2017: “SA maths whizz-kid in time fizz.” The article was a “breath of fresh air.” It recounts how eight year old Stiaan Scheepers achieved a spot in the world’s top 10 at the international Mental Maths World Cup. The challenge included square roots, cubes, fractions, time and prime factors. Many of our Grade 12 learners have not mastered these skills.

What a fantastic achievement, to be amongst the world’s best and especially at such a young age.  He will compete in the 17th Pan Asian Mathematics Association Global Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Championships, hosted in South Africa on 28 December.

There is so much that we can learn from this achievement.

Firstly, South African learners can do maths if optimal teaching methods are used. Stiaan is a student at one of the A+ franchises, which uses the Japanese Soroban (Abacus) method. He was exposed to this methodology, referred to as “brain gym” from the age of three. Practicing on the abascus is ostensibly an optimal way to grasp notions addition and subtraction; it also helps to integrate the left brain and the right brain.

It is now standard practice for children to spend a year in Grade R; this means that children are being taught a lot earlier. The burning question is: “How many schools, are using an abacus?” How many teachers are proficient in the use of an abacus? Using an abacus to teach the foundations of maths and to help learners to understand abstract notions should not be negotiable.

There is good news, PriceCheck SA alone provides 564 prices for the abacus. Availability is not an issue. I doubt that cost is, but if it is, I’m sure many South Africans would be willing to drop a pink note into the hat to sponsor a poorly funded school.

With the abacus as the foundation for maths teaching, we could then embrace best practice for the teaching of maths from China (I have covered this in an article on our website entitled: “China on my mind.”

The tagline “Just do it,” prompted me to do a further Google search. I found a brilliant quote from former US President, Barack Obama: “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make good things happen, you will fill the world with hope.”

The challenge for our readers in the week ahead is “Just do it.” Irrespective of your role or position, you can make a positive difference by addressing challenges head-on, in other words, “Just do it.”

Imagine what a great South Africa we could create if all South Africans embraced this tagline and gave their personal best in every endeavour. South Africa would be unstoppable.

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Carol has nineteen years’ experience as a professional writer, editor and case study writer. Her writing experience includes a stint as the resident Case Study Writer at the Wits Business School.


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