August Newsletter 2017

Dear Fellow Smart Solvers,

After almost a year of no newsletters, it feels good to be sitting here typing this one. So much has happened between this time last year and now. I’m sure you are all curious as to what happened, so here is a brief history.

After five years at Seartec as a Calculator Support Specialist, I felt that I had given everything creative I had to offer and that it might be a good time to make a change in my life. Via Afrika was moving into the extra maths space through Tabtor (which is an absolutely stunning program) and asked me to manage the Johannesburg centre (shout out to all the Glenanda Primary maths teachers 🙂 ). I absolutely loved working with the children at the centre – they always bring a smile to my face when I think of their enthusiasm for maths! (And I miss them!).

But, I missed you more! I missed meeting teachers at conferences and having long conversations about where mathematics is going in this country and what we can do, and the difference between mathematical literacy and maths number sense and the funny maths cartoons we send each other, and the conferences and the fire that is burning in the heart of passionate maths teachers across the country. So, when Seartec asked me to come back and become the Calculator Product Manager, it wasn’t a difficult decision. It does add an extra layer of responsibility, but I am certainly going to enjoy the extra challenge.

Before I left, I didn’t get to share our research with you. In September last year, we donated 40 EL-W535HT scientific calculators to two primary schools – an urban and a semi-rural school. We then did a 100-question mental maths test on paper with them. For 4 weeks (the semi-rural school took 2 weeks), the students played with the drill mode function on the calculator. Finally, the students were given a second 100-question mental maths test. The median time for both schools improved – the urban school by 57 seconds, and the semi-rural school by 4 minutes and 28 seconds. The semi-rural school’s maximum time also dropped by 13 minutes. This is a significant improvement in mental maths. Another interesting side note was the amount of working out that the semi-rural school’s group did. The number of calculations done on paper (and using very basic methods – such as grouping sticks for division) dropped dramatically from the pre-test to the post-test two weeks later. Isn’t it amazing that a device like a calculator can actually help students improve their mental maths? And even more importantly, being able to do mental maths quickly is a predictor of future marks in maths. For the full article on our research as well as an explanation of the importance of mental maths, please click here.

The new Sharp S25 Quiz Calculator

This research is one of the reasons I am so excited to introduce the new Sharp S25 Junior Quiz calculator. For half the price of a scientific calculator, you now have the mental maths functionality along with the basic functions of a calculator. It also includes a square-root, percentage and pi (with a value of 3.14) button. They are not on shelves yet, so please do contact me if you would like to order some for your school 🙂

And of course, I am also very excited by the arrival of the new-look EL-W535SAB Sharp Scientific calculators. The all new Sharp EL-W535SAB scientific calculators in red, white and blue. We have also added one or two extra functions such as the choice of having recurring decimal notation, a Home button that takes you back to your normal calculator mode, lowest common multiple and highest common factor button, and now also includes a dual table mode. Our brand new emulator with an extra enlarged calculator screen is now available to download for free from! These are also only exclusively available from Seartec at the moment so please do let me know if you would like to place an order for your school!

It’s been a very busy first 2 months back, with both the National AMESA conference that took place in Port Elizabeth, and the Sasol Techno X in Secunda. The AMESA conference saw well over a thousand enthusiastic maths teachers from around the country gather together to share ideas, passions and laughter over the week. We, of course, also ran our annual Mental Maths Calculator challenge. Our three-time champion, Thabo Makgolo, from Moshoette Primary School in the North West, walked away with 40 calculators for his school after achieving a best time of 28 seconds. Because Thabo has won 3 years in a row, we also gave the second-place prize winner 40 calculators. Martha Mashao, from Molautsi Secondary in Limpopo, achieved a time of 37 seconds and will also be receiving her 40 calculators.

The first place prize winnerThe second place winner, Martha










Playing mental maths on the Sharp calculatorsPlaying mental maths in the Sharp competition






You can check out all the workshops for AMESA (and the introduction of the three new calculator models) here, and the results for the mental maths competition here.

The Sasol Techno X took place in Secunda this year, and saw about 15 000 students travelling across the country to visit the career expo. Universities and companies gathered together on a giant field to share their expertise with the students. Students visiting the Seartec stand were introduced to the new EL-W535SAB Scientific calculators and were awed by the many new functions (and the beautiful colours 🙂 ).

We were also priveleged to be part of Eduweek this year, and displayed our interactive whiteboards, and othThe Berlut Book's Handbook and Studyguide for Mathser projector based technology. Eduweek is a great place to meet people who are interested in the education and technology landscape, and this year they also included displays from suppliers such as Butterfly products and Berlut books (I am very excited to tell you that the grade 9 maths Handbook and Studyguide textbook, written by Kevin Smith, should be available by the end of August. As part of the editing team I can tell you that it is an absolute must for any grade 9 student – the examples are colour coded and easy to follow, along with common mistakes made in each section and lots of questions with step-by-step answers at the back so that students can find where they made their mistakes (and making marking easier for you) and includes easy to follow explanations and diagrams. It also includes a great section exploring construction in geometry with fantastic step by step pictures!).

Another company that took part in Eduweek was Rainbow Teaching Resources. They produce printable colour posters and powerpoints for the classroom, and do multiple subjects from grade R to grade 6. Each poster set and powerpoint presentation has a small minimal cost, but you can print it as many times as you want. The posters are colourful and relevant to the South African context and the CAPS curriculum. In fact, Karen (who started Rainbow Teaching Resources) started as a teacher in Nelspruit. The posters are available in English and Afrikaans, as well as in the different fonts used by the IEB and Department of Education.

A great online resource that I wanted to share with you last year is Ask Archie. Ask Archie was established in 2010 and aims to help both students and teachers achieve better results. The textbook suppliers and writers are based in Cape Town and have a new interactive book available for technical mathematics, as well as grade 8 – 12 maths and science systems. The entire year’s content is loaded on a CD or USB and students can then run through the CAPS based content at their own pace, with the ability to repeat any section numerous times. The system can even be used in the classroom as content. For more information about Ask Archie (and free exam papers) visit .

For those of you who want to challenge your students, and maybe win some prizes, the Living Maths Olympiad for students from grade R – grade 9 takes place from the 16th of October to the 17 of November. Students who want to enter pay a voluntary fee of R5. Teachers can contact Steve via for more details, and to be added to the database for newsletters and updates about the Olympiad. This is a great way to encourage your students to pursue maths outside of the classroom, and the questions are always great.

I came across a fascinating article about using twitter to predict crime. A Professor from the University of Virginia, in West Virginia, America, collected 1.5 million tweets tagged to the Chicago area via a GPS-area code from January to March in 2013. He then cross-referenced them with the crime that occurred in the different areas, with what the tweets were saying about events (from going to a restaurant to sports games). He used a statistical forecasting model to predict 19 out of 25 crimes. His analysis was so successful that police departments are starting to use his model to predict when and where to place police officers, and have seen a decrease in crime in those cities because of his model. Isn’t it incredible that maths is using twitter to predict and stem crime! To read the entire article, please click here.

Calculator Tip: We are so excited to be launching the new EL-W535SAB that I wanted to share how to do statistics on the new calculator. On the calculator (try it by downloading the new emulator from press MODE 1 and choose 0 for SD (which stands for single data).
You should see a table on your screen like this one:

statistics menu
You can then type in the different data values that you have. Once you have finished (there are still 100 places for your data), press the button. This will take you to a “calculation” screen like this one:

Now, to get all of your statistics values, press ALPHA 8 and choose 0 from the menu below.

Menu for statistics second page of menu for statistics




You should then get a screen with your summary statistics. Simply use your up and down arrow keys to scroll up and down the table to find what you are looking for.

First page of statistics









And there you have it, as easy as that. 🙂

The last riddle I sent in august last year asked: “I saw a shirt for R97. I borrowed R50
from my mom and R50 from my dad. I bought the shirt and got R3 change. I gave R1 to my mom, R1 to my dad and kept R1 for myself. Now I owe my mom R49 and my dad R49. But R49 + R49 = R98 + my R1 = R99.
Where did the other R1 go?”
This is a matter of language. The shirt costs R97 and you paid R97 for it, getting back R3. You paid your parents back R1 each, so that you now owe them R98 (or R49 each). You kept R1. What you owed your parents was R100 (or R50 each), you now owe them R49 each. The R1 is not lost it is simply in the wrong sentence. Essentially we have added and subtracted the R1 more than once 

Here is a fun challenge for this month:
Can you find 4 consecutive prime numbers that add up to 220?

Have an amazing third term back, and enjoy the little moments that make you smile.
Happy maths-ing,
Tal and the Seartec team.
Ps – you almost thought I forgot, didn’t you?

Holiday time for teachers

Check out the rest of his comics here.

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