NUMBERWISE: Free online tool set to transform maths in SA

MATHEMATICS has advanced some wonderful things in this world. Grand architecture, engineering, modern medicine and astronomy would not be the same today without maths. Unfortunately this isn’t something that is generally taught at a school level; and at a university level, lecturers have the habit of telling students to forget everything they learnt at school.

Maths is not everyone’s forte and many South Africans have children who are battling with the subject at school. With trials looming, it may be wise for educators and learners alike to look to the wonderful web for some help with their maths homework.

mathsNumberwise is one such service that has proved to be a very successful tool in teaching learners to master maths basics and improve their mathematical abilities. The Numberwise program was originally written by Durbanite Trevor Lagerwall for his youngest son, Ross, who was struggling with maths at school. After completing the Numberwise course, said son achieved 100% for First Year Maths at UKZN, has re-written the Numberwise program, and is currently studying Computer Science. Trevor’s eldest son, Brett, achieved 100% for second year maths with the help of Numberwise.

For the past five years, Numberwise has been used in the Department of Civil Engineering at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). The results have been so positive that the Numberwise course now forms a module of the Civil Engineering Program at DUT.

Trevor Lagerwall illustrates the recent success of Numberwise at DUT: “Despite having just passed matric maths and been accepted into civil engineering, the average mark of students coming into DUT is 30%. Yet all those who complete the Numberwise course pass with 90% or more. Even more encouraging is that there has been a 25% improvement in maths marks at first year level”, says Lagerwall.

The Numberwise website describes how maths is layered and requires mastering the basics before being able to advance in the subject. In the five weeks that Numberwise has been available online, it has registered over 1 000 students from schools in Pietermaritzburg, Pretoria, East London and Namibia, and has even reached as far as Bolivia and Australia.

Numberwise is freely available for anyone to use and encourages educators to enlist their learners and monitor their progress. Learners are then encouraged to do a maths Assessment Test, and all completed work is recorded on the Numberwise server. This allows learners to compare their maths results and times with classmates or anyone else making use of the program. Peer competition not only encourages learners to perform better but soon there will be a chance to win prizes too.

“We have used these last five years to polish Numberwise into the interactive web-based program that it is today, says Lagerwall. Knowing that Numberwise works, it’s a no-brainer that all learners at school ought to do the Numberwise course. We believe that it will make a huge difference in maths in South Africa. Plus it is a fun way to learn one’s tables & bonds (addition & subtraction).”

To use Numberwise requires registering for free as an administrator and downloading the Numberwise program, which is less than two megabytes. Teachers or parents are then encouraged to register and enlist their students or children. Once the software is installed, users are ready to start their Numberwise journey. The maths website offers user-friendly, step-by-step support on how to get Numberwise up and running on your home or work PC. Learners can also use Numberwise at home and teachers can monitor their progress remotely.

Lagerwall explains: “Even though they will be registered at school, learners can do the course either at school or at home. However, the teacher (as the administrator) can still monitor their progress, print reports and certificates and so on, all via the website.”

Numberwise is entirely free for all to use but is currently looking for sponsorship. “Once we have sufficient numbers we are hoping to attract a sponsor, in part to monetise the project but also to sponsor stunning prizes that will drive the use of Numberwise”, says Lagerwall. Numberwise.com can handle multiple sponsors at a school, provincial, national or global level.

To see Numberwise in action, maths courses are held every Friday between 10am and 4pm at the Indumiso campus of DUT in Pietermaritzburg, where students do around 200 000 calculations. The goal is not only to prove that Numberwise really works, but to spread awareness of its free availability to all schools and educators country-wide.

“My hope is that all schools register all their learners and incorporate the Numberwise Course as part of their curriculum, says Lagerwall. Since every child in the world needs to learn their tables and bonds, our vision is that they do this using Numberwise, which we hope to grow first here in South Africa.”

For any questions regarding Numberwise, or if you are interested in becoming a sponsor of this project, you can contact Trevor Lagerwall on 084 568 2461 or 031 767 3247; or email him at trevor@numberwise.com

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CRIME WATCH: Pmb suburb uses the web to protect its community

I WAS just a baby in a cot when my parents experienced their first and only break-in in Eshowe. Things didn’t end well for the intruder, who got a severe beating from my dad with a hockey stick before fleeing from the scene.

After a couple of late-night phone calls, my father and a friend were on the scene. They found the family motorbike wheeled halfway down the road and several household goods concealed in bushes along the street.

The next day the police reported that the intruder was in hospital — firmly clutching onto my mother’s pink purse, which he claimed to be his own. A court case followed and my father dropped all charges after learning of the criminal’s unfortunate background.

One might regard it as a mistake to let any criminal off the hook, but our house has never been targeted by criminals since. Perhaps that can be attributed to word of mouth on the intruder’s part.

The unique thing about living in a small town is the strong community watch that naturally develops. Everyone knows everyone, and most residents feel an inclination to watch out for one another’s safety. This is obviously more difficult in larger cities, but one area in Pietermaritzburg has been getting involved in preventing crime as part of a voluntary, web-based initiative.

Lincoln Meade Community Watch

The Lincoln Meade Community Watch website, which operates 24/7.

The Lincoln Meade Community Watch
Innovative methods to stop neighbourhood crime are part of the mandate adopted by the Lincoln Meade Community Watch, which is known for radically reducing crime in the southern suburbs of Pietermaritzburg. Part of its success is attributed to an interactive website used to record criminal activity and disseminate this information quickly to the neighbourhood and police.

Lincoln Meade Features
The website allows users to register by providing a working e-mail address to ensure they can receive instant alerts daily, weekly or monthly. While the site allows users to set privacy levels, it is recommended that users share all their information so that residents in the same street can create a group list and quickly notify each other in the event of an emergency.

Streets and zones
The community watch area is divided into zones and streets. When members sign up they are assigned accordingly. The community watch then scouts the area looking to recruit zone and street leaders who are in charge of co-ordinating among neighbours. In the event of an incident occurring, one can simply log into the system and locate the closest registered residents and contact them. They in turn can be the eyes and ears until help arrives.

Patrols
Members can also offer their time to patrol the streets and can use the system to log their patrol times as well as locate other patrols nearby. They can either join patrols or invite others to join theirs. The system accrues all patrol hours spent and the watch leaders ensure that all patrol contributions are recognised.

News and events
The site allows for news and events to be added on a regular basis. The three administrators who run the site can (at their discretion) e-mail the news to the database or simply leave it on the website. This has proven useful as some residents do not have Internet access. They do, however, have access to e-mail and can stay informed about the latest happenings. Events are logged and e-mailed in the same way using the online calendar.

Incidents reports
This has proven to be the most popular part of the system. Incident reports allow the administrators to feed crime incidents into the system as they happen. These are e-mailed to every member so that residents can stay informed and alert about any crime occurring around them. This includes descriptions of the incident type, property stolen and suspect descriptions. Photographs of previously convicted suspects can also be attached for future identification.

“It is really fantastic to see how many people actually keep this information with them, says Wayne Janneker, chairman of the community watch. “The watch receives calls every now and then of reports of vehicles or suspects matching the incident description. In turn this information is passed around very quickly with further arrests being made.”

SMS database
Additional functionality of the community watch includes an SMS database containing contact information about all residents and patrol member groups. Should there be an alert, such as a robbery in progress, an SMS is sent to residents warning them to be on the lookout.

Simultaneously an operation centre is established that picks up incoming information and liaises with the SA Police Service. A two-way radio network has also been put in place for patrollers to quickly pass on info while on patrol.

Tracking
For tracking purposes, the system allows for SA Police Service Criminal Administration System (CAS) numbers to be added to incidents so it can later be referenced should there be further information provided.

This assists the SAPS and the watch by linking pieces of information together. A brief synopsis of the latest incidents reported is visible on the homepage.

Suspicious vehicles are also listed on the site. Users are able to download a printer-friendly version of such lists to keep with them in their cars or near their doors. If a vehicle is spotted they can contact relevant members. CAS numbers are also assigned to vehicle reports so that residents can inform the SAPS immediately and ensure a swift response.

“The system’s setup has been a vital link in our chain to combat crime,” says Janneker. "We constantly receive compliments from residents thanking us for continuous feedback" 

Future growth
The system currently allows for advertising so that the watch can raise funds to continue its efforts. Membership now consists of over 200 residents and has been building a strong community of crime stoppers over the last three years.

“Our plan for future growth is to get our neighbouring suburbs on to the same system and to release a mobile version of the website for cellphones,” says Janneker.

— Original article supplied.

Do you have a similar web service in your area?

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VIDEO: Audio-slideshow of what Pietermaritzburg has to offer

AS a build up to 2010, the Witness multimedia team (i.e. the Webmaster and I) sort to produce a series of videos showcasing what Pietermaritzburg has to offer foreign visitors. They also aimed to highlight the Harry Gwala stadium, which was to be a training ground for the Fifa 2010 World Cup.

Needless to say I found it very difficult to motivate myself to produce the following as it was a voluntary, unpaid project. But, I'm glad to say that it's finally done and I hope you enjoy it.

Proudly Pietermaritzburg video

The video has been removed due to copywrite issues. Mango Groove's agents/music corp. were upset that 25 seconds of their (credited) Pennywhistle track was used in the promotional, non-profit video of Pietermaritzburg. They're asking for R36000 in penalties. Let this be a warning to all fellow video-producers

Proudly Pietermaritzburg featuring the tunes of Mafikizolo and Mango Groove. Showcasing Pietermaritzburg history, buildings, famous people and Royal visits, Pmb art & culture, memorial statues, sport and film in Maritzburg.

Related video: Proudly South African (a must see)

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PVP: New Gaming experience opens at Liberty Midlands Mall

AN exciting new entertainment venue has opened in Pietermaritzburg’s Liberty Midlands Mall. PVP Digital Arena (short for Player Versus Player) allows gamers to at last take advantage of some built-in features of the Xbox 360 that they have been denied up until now.

Previously Xbox owners have only been able to take advantage of around 30% of the capabilities of the Xbox, says Brendon Holder, who together with Paul Gilliver is responsible for dreaming up the idea for this ground-breaking store.

PvP Digital ArenaPVP is, apparently, the first of its kind in the country and the only electronic game specialist store in Pietermaritzburg. The store also retails a range of the best and latest games for Xbox, Playstation, PC and Nintendo consoles and Holder and Gilliver are available to give expert advice.

PVP will give gamers access to 20 networked  Xbox 360s connected to high definition LCD monitors, to play the latest games that include first person shooters such as Halo: Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and Call of Duty; third person shooters like Gears of War 2; real time strategy games such as Halo Wars; car racing and rally games that include Dirt 2, and car simulators like Forza 3; as well as a variety of “beat-em-up” games, and sports games like Fifa 10, rugby and golf.

The real X-factor with PVP, however, is the fact that players can play against other players in the same room, giving the already convincingly rendered games, enhanced reality. Slow internet speeds in South Africa have meant that unlike other places in the world, live multiplayer gaming has not been a real option for gamers in SA. This has meant that possibly the most exciting aspect of electronic multiplayer games has yet to be experienced by locals.

“Playing Call of Duty is so much more real when you and your squad are in the same room, discussing strategy, while your opponents are on the other side of the room planning how to ambush you. The line between real and virtual is blurred.” - Holder

To further enhance the experience, PVP will hold competitions, elite tournaments for pro gamers, and in-store events, including the possibility of “moments of madness” where they will randomly give away PVP-branded gear and other prizes to players.

The eagerly anticipated store has already created a stir on PVP’s facebook page (PVP Digital Arena) and Liberty Midlands Mall centre manager Cassie Fourie says that there has been a lot of interest shown.

“Customers have been asking when PVP is opening and are extremely excited”, she said, “We welcome this new addition to the mall, which caters to the entertainment element.”

The best news though is that to get in on the action, it will cost players less than a ride in one of those peddle boats at the seaside, with prices starting at a mere R20 per 30 minutes.

Costs to play at PVP Digital Arena
- R20 per 30 minutes
- R35 per one hour
- R60 per two hours

Games store events planned
After-hour “lock ins” will be organised for groups of 16 or more on request.
Competitions for rankings, with prizes, to be held every month.
Elite tournaments for pro gamers to be held at PVP.
Various events to be held weekly, including “moments of madness”

Other goods on offer at PVP games store
PVP is also a retailer of the best electronic console games for Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Wii and PC. Buyers can try games before they buy and get expert advice on game choices. There will be a game swopping facility available too.

Membership options are planned for the future, with loyalty cards that earn members points that can be redeemed for playing time, games or PVP merchandise.

PVP games store equipment
Twenty networked Xbox 360s linked to HDMI.
23” LCD monitors, with headphones and comfortable tub chairs.
PVP will keep their equipment current and in future will even change to another console platform if a better one is released.

PVP Digital Arena is at Shop 93A at Pietermaritzburg’s Liberty Midlands Mall. Don’t miss their grand opening at 9am this Saturday, October 24. Get there early to claim your place. For inquiries call PVP at 033 342 6420 or email Brendon Holder: brendon@pvp-arena.co.za

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CARS: The 33rd annual Cars in the Park show revs it up this month at Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg

Over 7 000 people attended the 32nd Cars in the Park show last year, where over 1 000 cars were on display ranging from mean-looking Mustangs, to vintage Volvos, to antique Cadillacs. It was the most amazing gathering of hot and sexy cars polished to perfection that I have ever witnessed. This year's show shone just as impressively as last year. Check out the videos below to get an idea of what was on display.

Cars in the Park 2009

Cars in the Park 2008

PS: The sh-boom song will be stuck in your head for at least a week.

Related post: Frankfurt Motor Show Gallery

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