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Dr Anesh Maharaj.

Mathematician Dr Anesh Maharaj is the recipient of a UKZN 2014 Distinguished Teachers’ Award, presented to academics who have demonstrated excellence in Teaching and Learning.

Maharaj, who was recently promoted to Senior Lecturer, currently heads the Mathematics Education Research Group in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

‘I feel honoured,’ said the award winner. ‘The feedback I received from my students over the years with regards to my teaching has been very positive. To me that was good enough as my main aim was to be a good lecturer to my students, who come with varying abilities and from different backgrounds. It feels good to be recognised by our University.’

The Distinguished Teachers’ Award requires candidates to not only be outstanding teachers who demonstrate successful and effective learning outcomes, but to have also made a sustained contribution to Teaching and Learning.

Maharaj said the award reaffirmed he was proceeding in the right direction, adding he would continue to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics for his students.

Maharaj served as an associate member of the Multiversity Consortium linked to the HP Global Catalyst Initiative from 2010 to 2013.

In 2010 he obtained a grant from the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) for the project: Mathematics e-learning and Assessment: A South African Context.

Maharaj also manages grants from 2010 onwards of the Tertiary Education Support Programme (TESP) of ESKOM for the UKZN-ESKOM Mathematics Projects. He heads the NRF-funded (2014-2016) collaborative project: Online Diagnostics for Undergraduate Mathematics, and mentors successful applicants for NRF internships from 2013 onwards to help with web-based diagnostics and research.

Maharaj urged teachers to make optimal use of their contact sessions to promote teaching and learning.

‘There are many underprepared or under qualified mathematics teachers at school level who are expected to teach their pupils mathematics. This results in a large number of students enrolling at universities who are not really equipped to study further.

‘At the University the lecturing-staff has certain expectations from first year students,’ said Maharaj.

‘It is a problem that those students do not know what our expectations and assumptions are. These need to be made known to students during the university orientation programmes, both at College and School levels. It is crucial that first year students make the necessary adjustments in regard to their lecturer’s expectations and the work rate at university during the first few days of the semester. For many students this happens too late and contributes to their lack of success.’

Maharaj added that students needed to be guided to study with understanding and to think constructively.

‘A crucial part of the learning process is to ask and also be exposed to appropriate questions at the right time. If one knows what one does not know then this could be the starting point towards an exciting journey from the perspective of a pupil or student. For those involved in teaching it is very important to determine what those you are expected to teach know or don’t know. It is in this context that effective teaching could be planned for and implemented. Reflection is also important for all concerned in the teaching and learning process,’ he said.

Maharaj enjoys reading, walking and a good game of sport. His research interests include promoting effective teaching and learning in mathematics, advanced mathematical thinking, the use of APOS Theory to carryout studies in undergraduate mathematics, e-learning, diagnostics and assessment.

The Distinguished Teachers’ Awards will be formally presented at the Graduation ceremonies later this year.