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Nobalisas practice numeracy activities during a training session in November 2017. Photo: Brian Quinton

Last year, groundwork for Axium’s foundation phase numeracy project saw Numeracy Coordinator Ingrid Mostert visiting reading clubs led by the Nobalisas, observing how they operate and thinking about how numeracy games could be adapted to suit the setting.

Contextual challenges are that numbers of children at the clubs can be quite large and ages may vary a lot, meaning Nobalisas will have to think on their feet, adapting exercises according to the groups each week.

Each Nobalisa currently facilitates two weekly reading clubs at their homes for children in their areas. While considering how to include the numeracy work in their responsibilities, reading club coordinator Ezile Dalibango suggested dedicating one of these two weekly sessions to numeracy, alternating with the usual literacy work. This will now be a formal part of the Nobalisa work and represents an exciting step in bringing our mathematics and numeracy focus in at an earlier age.

This term, Zikhona Gqibani and Ingrid have been drawing on online resources to find new games, learn and adapt them, and then share them with the rest of the team. Seeing the Nobalisas and Ingrid huddled over sets of cards, counting beans, or arranging bottle caps has become a regular sight in the office. The Nobalisas have experimented with some of these new games in their reading clubs already. “If I learn a game from Ingrid, I would try it in my reading club and the kids love it,” Zikhona said.

Together, they have formulated a structure for how the Numeracy clubs will run. “Every week the same 5 things will get done,” Ingrid explained. “First you are all in a big circle, then you tell a story, then they play games in smaller groups, then there’s a puzzle to solve, then everyone plays with Lego. So it will just be a different game or story, but the pattern will stay the same.”

The games used are number sense games that help children understand how numbers are built up - for example, 7 being built by 5 and 2 – which aids later numeracy. “It’s laying the foundations for being able to do addition and subtraction, additive relation problems and calculation strategies later on,” Ingrid explains.

Visually representing how numbers can be broken down is key, using fingers, bead strings, and flashcards alongside games where they practice adding and subtracting or finding numbers that make 10 using tools like playing cards or dice.

The team is currently pulling together numeracy boxes to compliment reading club boxes, including all the required resources. “We are trying to sort out these things so we will be ready in the third week of next term,” Zikhona says, confident that all will go well. “The Nobalisas are ready and they love it.”

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