Original Research

Place value without number sense: Exploring the need for mental mathematical skills assessment within the Annual National Assessments

Mellony Graven
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 3, No 2 | a45 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v3i2.45 | © 2013 Mellony Graven | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 May 2014 | Published: 30 December 2013

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Mellony Graven, Rhodes university, South Africa

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In this paper we examine the extent of the focus on number sense, enabled and accompanied by the development of efficient strategies for mental maths, in the foundation and intermediate phase. We do this through documentary analysis of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) for these phases and the Annual National Assessments (ANAs). We argue that number sense and mental agility are critical for the development and understanding of algorithms and algebraic thinking introduced in the intermediate phase. However, we note from our work with learners, and broader evidence in the South African landscape, that counting-based strategies in the foundation phase are replaced in the intermediate phase with traditional algorithms. We share experiences in the form of vignettes to illuminate this problem. Whilst literature and the CAPS curriculum emphasise the important role of mental computation within number sense, we note that the ANAs do not include a “mental mathematics” component. This absence in assessment, where assessment often drives teaching, is problematic. We conclude with the suggestion that research be conducted into the viability/appropriateness of an orally administered mental mathematics assessment component in the ANAs as a way to establish a focus on number sense across the foundation and intermediate phases.


assessment, mental strategies, number sense, CAPS, ANA, South Africa, primary mathematics


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