Wow! Get this new tool and “learn to earn”!

Siyavula makes its online maths and science tool free for high school students who can’t afford to pay
Students “learn to earn” by completing a monthly target of practice exercises
High school students who want to do better at maths and science, but don’t have the means to pay for additional academic support, can now benefit from a powerful technological platform developed by local scientists and educational experts.
The online “practice tool” was designed by Siyavula, the Cape Town-based edu-tech company whose open-source Everything Maths & Science textbooks have been distributed to over 10 million South African students. The tool can be used by anyone with any phone (smart or not) with an internet connection. It is already used by more than 100 000 learners in Grades 8-12 at government and private schools all around the country, who pay a subscription fee. Now Siyavula is offering learners the chance to qualify for free access to practise their maths and science online.
How Siyavula’s practice tool works:
The practice tool is aligned to the South African curriculum and works like this: Users sign up at on a computer, tablet or phone and begin solving maths/science problems appropriate to their grade. The more they improve, the more difficult the questions become. Their answers are checked instantly and they’re given immediate step-by-step feedback so they can easily keep track of their progress.
An ideal complement to class-based learning, the innovative practice tool is automatically tailored to each learner’s ability. It is based on the latest learning research about how students master new skills and concepts. Behind the questions is powerful technology adapting each practice session to the right level of challenge for that particular learner. Each question is different so learners can practise as much as they like until they feel confident that they’ve really understood a concept.
The tool is currently used as a teaching aid at 470 schools and by individual learners at home. With additional support from its partners, Siyavula is now able to sponsor the cost for a limited number of students from low-income households.
“Often technology in education requires expensive devices, lots of data and high subscription fees. We’ve already addressed the first two by designing our tool to work on any phone that can access the internet and reducing data costs as much as possible – even to zero if you’re a Vodacom user,” says Mark Horner, Siyavula’s chief executive officer. “We know that the monthly cost is still a barrier to many individuals who are motivated, looking for help and want to learn, but don’t have the means to pay. That is the barrier we are now removing by allowing those learners to earn free access.”
How learners can qualify for free access:
There is no monetary cost associated, but learners do have to put some effort in to show their motivation and dedication in order to be rewarded and benefit from the free access. It’s an innovative “learn to earn” model that actively engages students in the act of problem solving, reflecting on feedback, working through solutions, learning and improving.
“We did this not only to help learners attach a value to their earned free access, but also to help them get stuck in straight away, learn how to use the practice service, set and aim for their own goals, and understand the idea of what it takes to master the concepts,” explains Horner.
To qualify for free access, learners simply need to sign up at and complete the weekly aim. They’ll start by earning one week’s worth of access at a time for achieving the aim given to them. Aims include completing a certain number of exercises, completing a profile and setting personal goals. Those who make it through the first three weeks successfully then qualify to start earning a whole month’s access at a time by practising at least 100 exercises each month.
While goal setting does not necessarily come naturally to learners at this stage of their lives, Siyavula’s approach is founded on the belief that when they are encouraged to do so and given actionable steps to regularly work towards those goals, they are more motivated to succeed.
“Without a learner being engaged, there will be no learning. This motivation has to stem from within, although there can be many external factors that influence this,” says Horner. “This is why we developed a learning environment that is active and effective: practising and problem solving are not passive experiences. We implicitly motivate learners with the way in which our system is designed, and help them to develop their own sustaining motivations, desires and dreams.”
About Siyavula:
Based in Cape Town, Siyavula is a private company with a mission is to make excellent maths and science learning accessible and affordable for all. The company is made up of scientists and educators who are passionate about enabling and creating innovative, technology-powered learning experiences. The team is headed up by Mark Horner, a former Shuttleworth Fellow with a PhD in Nuclear Physics. He initiated the Free High School Science Texts project in 2002, which formed the foundation upon which Siyavula is built today. Its investors are the Shuttleworth Foundation, PSG Group Limited and the Silicon Valley-based Omidyar Network. It has partnered with various sponsors such as Vodacom, Sasol, Old Mutual, and MMI Holdings. Siyavula’s in-house team of educational technologists includes both experienced teachers and content specialists from the fields of physics, chemistry and mathematics.

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