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Inspiring a Life of Significance

“Every child deserves the right to leave her own unique mark on the world”

SENIOR SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Maths and Sciences Initiatives

Mathematics

The Roedean School vision around Mathematics is for every pupil to feel empowered to tackle the historically male-dominated field of Mathematics with confidence and for every one of them to enjoy the subject, approaching it with wonderment and awe.

Advanced Programme Mathematics is an essential bridge between school mathematics and university mathematics. The evidence is overwhelming that girls who complete Advanced Programme Mathematics at school have a far higher chance of passing any university mathematics course.

In the Roedean 2014 Matriculation group about 6% of the group took Advanced Programme Mathematics. By 2019 the percentage of the Matriculants doing Advanced Programme Mathematics had risen to 30%.  This compares to a National average of Matriculants doing AP Maths of 0,7% (Government school Matriculants and IEB Matriculants all register for the IEB Advanced Programme Mathematics Examination). This high level of enrolment for Advanced Programme Mathematics indicates that Roedean girls are feeling positive and confident about their ability to do, and enjoy, Mathematics. Girls are not in any way coerced into doing Advanced Programme Mathematics; their decision to do this subject is entirely optional.

The Matriculants doing Advanced Programme Mathematics in 2019 were the first group in the school’s history to be taught both the Statistics and Probability Optional Module, as well as the Financial Mathematics and Modelling Optional Module. Only a handful of schools in the country teach two of the optional modules for Advanced Programme Mathematics. All girls were assessed on both options, except for in their Preliminary and Final Matric Examination, where they were allowed to write only one of the optional topics. Each girl chose which topic they would prefer to write for these examinations. Teaching two optional modules, when only one is required, is not done to increase our number of matric distinctions, but is done because at Roedean we hope to expose our girls to a wide variety of Mathematical topics, thus equipping them with the necessary skills to cope with any first-year mathematical course at any university in the world.

Our proportion of girls doing Mathematical Literacy is very low: The Matric 2019 class had 14% of the grade doing Mathematical Literacy. This compares to a National average of around 58% of Matriculants doing Mathematical Literacy. The IEB Matriculation enrolment for Mathematical Literacy was 34% of total registered candidates.

We, as a department, will continue to try and maximise the mathematical potential of every girl at this school, and will endeavour to make their Mathematical experience a positive one.


Sciences

Life Sciences

The subject, Life Sciences is an exciting study of life in an environment that is constantly changing. The pupils are encouraged to develop along three interdependent pathways:

  • Learning by investigation
  • Developing a sound understanding of biological concepts and processes.
  • Applying the concepts to society and the environment.

Focus is placed on the value of understanding the workings of one’s own body and the natural world in order to make informed decisions regarding our human health and that of our environment we live in. Many stimulating activities ensure that pupils develop a wide range of inquiry, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Some of the tasks/projects run recently are problem-solving projects carried out by Middle Vs, devising solutions for food sustainability in Johannesburg, and Upper Vs, on devising solutions for the environmental impacts of Covid-19 and the human and environmental impacts in the Delta Park area.

Life Sciences is one of the fastest growing fields with new developments on a regular basis that are likely to impact our daily lives. The highly dynamic nature of the subject allows for the incorporation of new topics as advances in the field occur. The incorporation of these kinds of new research findings into lessons allows pupils to appreciate the impact that biological science is having on society and the environment today. The most recent impact of Covid-19 and the development of subsequent medical technology is the perfect example. In this light we also study biotechnology and its many applications. The Lower Vs complete many practical applications of biotechnological processes in food production and the Matrics actually transform bacteria using recombinant DNA technology.

Something we believe to be essential to studying Life Sciences is the skills focus of the subject. As a department we enjoy approaching the teaching of Life Science in a practical way. We believe this allows the learners to approach tasks with wonderment and awe, which then leads to enjoyment, and the positive effect of this prepares them for learning at a deeper level and allows a more effective development of the understanding of the concepts in Life Sciences. As a result, we try to incorporate as many practical activities into the learning. Some examples are: microscopes to teach cells; building models to teach different body systems; practicals to teach complicated processes of photosynthesis, respiration etc, practical applications of asexual reproduction in plants.

The curriculum exposes pupils to various ethical debates in biology. Many scientific breakthroughs in the biological arena have ethical implications which need to be unpacked and understood as they influence decision making at the individual and societal level. It also strives to make pupils aware of how experimental bias can undermine an investigation and how to critically evaluate scientific process.


Physical Sciences:

A good definition of science is this: “The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”.  It is the “observation and experiment” part of this definition that is often neglected. In the Roedean Physical Sciences department we aim to incorporate as much experiential learning into our curriculum as possible.  Our philosophy in Lower V (Grade 8) is that we will teach only concepts that can be experienced in some way by the pupils.  The use of technology has greatly improved our ability to investigate atomic phenomena using animations and simulations, while we continue to expand our equipment base to ensure that any investigation that can be done by the girls themselves, is!

It is our belief that science would be greatly benefitted by the input and wisdom of more women, and so we aim to get the young scientists at Roedean to be fascinated by and curious about the physical world around them.  This, we believe, will lead to more of these young women pursuing careers in Engineering, Pure Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics, allowing them to lead lives of significance in these traditionally male-dominated fields.