UNE maths program adds confidence

Published 06 January 2009

Helping to improve basic skills in mathematics

Employees at Ascent Business Services in Armidale are working with the University of New England on a project that is helping school students to improve their basic skills in mathematics.

Ascent Business Services is a division of integrated living Australia, an organisation that supports people with a disability. A team of eight people, working in the Print Pack Post division at Armidale’s Acacia Park, is collating numeracy resources used in the QuickSmart program developed at UNE.

Those resources include games and ‘flash cards’ – each card containing a question in simple arithmetic (e.g. ‘5 x 3 = ?’) designed to help students develop automatic responses to such questions. Two million cards are being sorted into 200 sets of QuickSmart resources.

For the Ascent employees, the work has had an educational dimension. ‘It’s been a very interesting exercise for us to see the advancement of some in their basic maths capabilities,’ said Mr Jack Kelly, Team Leader in Ascent’s ‘Print Pack Post’ operation.

One of the employees, Paul Wadleigh, said the project offered exciting possibilities for learning. ‘If we have spare time, we practise,’ he said.

‘They are also developing an eye for detail,’ Mr Kelly said, ‘and noticing any cards that might be defective.’ There has, indeed, been a remarkable improvement in the speed and accuracy of their work.

Mr Stuart Wark, General Manager of Employment Services for integratedliving, said the project had ‘opened new horizons’ for the employees by ‘expanding their literacy and numeracy skills’.

QuickSmart has been used with great success in more than 90 schools in NSW and the Northern Territory over the past four years. By giving students confidence in the automatic application of basic mathematical procedures, it has also enhanced their motivation. ‘The parents of Indigenous kids in the Northern Territory report that they’re really keen to go to school on QuickSmart days,’ said Professor John Pegg, Director of the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia. Professor Pegg and his UNE colleague Associate Professor Lorraine Graham have led the team that has developed the QuickSmart program and overseen its successful implementation.

The collation work at Ascent Business Services has ensured that the production of the QuickSmart kits has been all done in Armidale, including design work at UNE Partnerships and printing at UNE’s Printery.

The QuickSmart project is just one example of Ascent Business Services working for UNE. Other tasks are undertaken by the organisation’s Secure Shredding and Recycling operation as well as its Print Pack Post.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of the flashcards expands to show Joe Boston and Matt Devenish-Mears.