If you’ve been on our Facebook or Twitter page recently, you may have noticed some of our photos from our recent trip to Malawi. Although some members of our office are convinced we went over there to buy beans for our new coffee machine, we were actually there to run an evaluation on the success of our maths apps in schools there. Myself, Jamie, Andrew and Nicola Pitchford from Nottingham University spent 10 days in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, testing around 400 Malawian kids at Biwi primary school on basic maths and motor skills, as well as asking them questions about their aspirations and how they feel about school life in general.
If you have never tried to register the names and details of hundreds of small children, and chase them all down to put the right coloured and named wristbands on each one, you might struggle to imagine the level of chaos that we experienced, with several kids coming back to try and get their photos taken twice, some losing or destroying their wristbands after just one day, and our complete inability to spell Malawian names!
However, somehow we managed this massive task, and got down to business putting the children into groups (a red group, who will use our maths apps for 8 weeks, a blue group who will use other fun, but non-maths, apps, and a pink group who will carry on with teaching as usual). After this, we began to assess the children, running our specially-designed evaluation app on groups of around 50 children at a time.
Thanks to Nicola’s amazing organisational skills and hard work from everyone, we managed to assess all the children who are part of the study in just three days, albeit with our stress levels a little higher at the end of several hours of using our rather basic knowledge of Chichewa to explain to kids how to use their shiny new ipads (or ‘gadgets’ as they call them!). The red group will now have 8 weeks to use the Masamu (maths) apps for a few hours each week, and we will be back to assess their progress in November!
We all had an amazing time in this beautiful country, and it was fantastic to see the level of interest that there is in our project. I was particularly happy to see how far some of the children got with the assessment tasks, and how hard some of them concentrated on getting the right answers, and trying out a range of new tasks that they would never normally be asked to do. There is clearly a lot of natural maths talent there, so we’re extremely excited to see the progress that they make with the extra teaching and support we are giving them during the study.
Make sure you check out our Flickr account for loads of pictures of the goings-on at Biwi school!