The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple.
~ S. Gudder
The primary purpose of the vacation schools is to grow a corps of high performing learners that may continue with their studies in mathematics and physical sciences into higher education.
The work done in the vacation schools focuses on conceptual engagement with critical concepts, and provides extensive opportunities for learners to engage in problem solving, investigations, experimental work and critical discourse with each other and with the teachers. The aim is for learners to engage learners with mathematical ideas in such a way that they progressively make sense of what they are doing, and eventually develop the disposition of wanting to make sense for themselves.
The main beneficiaries of the vacation school are the promising primary and secondary school learners; their own teachers are added beneficiaries of the programme. We do not engage with all the learners and teachers in a school, but rather select beneficiaries carefully.
The programme also offers Grade 12 learners assistance with examination preparation in mathematics and physical science in order that they can obtain better marks so as to gain access to further education and career opportunities.
This cohort of learners is identified through a series of baseline tests: a counting test, one on computation and another on computational problem solving. These learners are also selected on the basis of their conceptual engagement with mathematical critical concepts during problem solving activities as well as their responses to lessons presented by educators / Ukuqonda field workers.
This cohort of learners is identified through one baseline test only, which tests a variety of different topics/the emphasis is on conceptual development. This test is designed with an intention to identify learners with potential to engage with mathematical and scientific ideas they are presented with.
Teachers who participate in the vacation schools are selected through their preparedness to make sense of the subject content they teach as well as their commitment to development in their teaching ability.
In the case of the teachers the vacation school is also used as a vehicle for their professional development. Participating teachers receive intensive training in the content addressed during the vacation schools, as well as the teaching methods utilised; the training of teachers is done by Ukuqonda personnel.
The vacation school is presented by the selected teachers from the participating schools. In this way it is hoped that not only the learners who attend the vacation schools will benefit, but that the teachers who participate will acquire enhanced capacities and a greater commitment for the work they do in their regular classes in schools and thus add quality to the experiences of the other learners not part of the vacation school.