Interview! GoMaths CEO Lebang Nong Unpacks His Easy to Use and Affordable GM-991 Calculator . It goes without saying that one can’t go anywhere without running into Math. We live in a mathematically driven world, and people understand Maths the same way all over the world.
Having noted that though, it is such a complex subject, difficult for many. Thank God we have the likes of Lebang Nong, who has come through for many Math students. He is very passionate about educating and mentoring young people across the country to understand Math better. Nong has produced Top Students in Soweto, Tsakane, Katlehong, Tembisa, Vaal, Ganyesa, Krugersdorp , Ganyesa, Thoyandou , Giyane and Clairwood (Durban) in Mathematics and Science for the past 18 years.
Another way that Nong is using to make Math easier for students, is through his very own GM-991 calculator. We caught up with him, and he unpacked everything you might want to know about his invention.
1. Congratulations on GM-991 calculator Mr Nong, this shows just how passionate you are
about Math as a subject. Where does that passion come from?
GoMaths was founded in 2004 by Lebang. In my 18 years of teaching at various schools in the township and rural areas, I noticed that learners either did not have a calculator or had calculators that had limited functions. These deficits made it difficult for learners to engage productively with complex mathematical problems. I then took it upon myself to design and produce a calculator that was not only multi-functional but affordable to learners around the country including those in the township and rural schools.
2. What prompted you to come up with the idea of creating a calculator, as opposed to other
inventions which can fit more in a digital world?
It is evident that classrooms are heading the ICT route nonetheless calculators remain the most affordable and essential learning tools in the classroom. Calculators have an important role to play in aiding learners to solve various mathematical problems and are a standard requirement for examinations. Given this standard requirement, it was important for GoMaths to support learners who could not afford top of the range calculators by producing one with similar features but at an affordable price.
3. How different is the GM-991 calculator from other scientific calculators that students have
been using all these years?
Standard scientific calculators have basic features which include calculations with basic operations, exponents and scientific notation. What sets the GM-991 SA calculator apart is how its features relate to the national curriculum. For example, in addition to the basic features, it has features such as solving
equations and calculations using the summation notation, which per the national diagnostic report, have proven to be challenging topics for learners to understand. The GM-991 SA calculator assists learners in verifying answers to complex topics previously mentioned therefore reducing time spent on these problems.
4. Do you see any difference in terms of performance from learners who are already using the
I am happy with the reception of the calculators at schools where it has been launched. There has been an increase in the pass-rate of Mathematics results at these schools and the top Mathematics learner, who achieved 100%, was using the GM 991-SA calculator during his examinations [2021 Final year]. This not only speaks to the effectiveness of the calculator in aiding mathematical understanding but a statement on the positive impact of proper learning materials on learning.
5. When it comes to the use of calculators to solve problems, many people feel that it breeds
dependency and makes both students and teachers lazy, what’s your take on that?
Calculators, similar to any other learning materials, are there to assist learners in understanding content. Some topics work with large numbers or small values that would make it impractical or tedious to solve by hand. Therefore, the frequent use of calculators should not be seen as ‘making both students and
teachers lazy’ but as a means of time management and verification when solving complex problems.
6. In terms of affordability and availability, can students in remote areas and those from poor
backgrounds be able to access the calculator?
We have set up social media accounts in which the calculator is advertised for purchase. Customers can receive more information from these social media platforms / accounts and may place their orders. GoMaths is looking to partner with local supermarkets and online shopping platforms to make the calculator accessible around the country.
7. For this invention, did you work with other innovators, or it’s a solo project? Also did you receive any support in terms of funding?
At present we are open to exploring collaborative opportunities with key stakeholders to increase the scaling of distributing the calculators. The GoMaths 991SA was pre-launched in 2019-2020 , when Mr Nong returned from the US. He later took the calculator to schools in the township. Then on the 9th April 2021 he officially launched the GoMaths Calculator at Altmont Technical School in Soweto, where he
attended Secondary education. As part of CSI, we have already partnered with schools that we have helped in the past, and have a company that will donate 25 GoMaths Calculators to an orphanage. My passion over the years is to ensure that opportunities are created for many of the learners and young people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds like myself, and to be able to use these tools to navigate through status quo.
8. Many people are not that crazy about Math, more so because it is a difficult subject. How
can you encourage young ones out there to make this subject more enjoyable?
Questioning, practice and collaboration. I have always found that questioning and the types of questions I asked made it easier for me to understand the content. Mathematics requires constant practice using various materials such as study guides and question papers. You can ask your teacher to give you
extra resources for practice should you not have any access to revision materials. Study groups are also a great way of practicing Mathematics as each group member can take on the role of “topic expert” and teach others about the topic. You can include some Q&A games in the groups to include a fun aspect of your learning.
9. A lot of people are of the impression that, Math is not really applicable in the real world,
how can you clear that misconception?
The applications of Mathematics in real life are limitless. From modelling the spread of a virus in a country or the world to the amount of change you should receive when shopping. Mathematics allows us to understand these problems and so much more. Learners should not only be encouraged to choose
Mathematics as a subject, but also teachers need to make the subject interesting for learners. Teachers need to show enthusiasm for the subject and look for ways to link the topic to real-life situations. The national curriculum needs to integrate mathematical modelling in Mathematics topics to enable learners to understand the applications of Mathematics in everyday life.
10. Is the GM-991 calculator your last invention, or you see yourself coming up with more tools
to help learners tackle Math better?
Learning never stops and so is the development of educational materials. There is a Grade 12 textbook in production which I hope will be available for purchase very soon. The education system is evolving and the demand for educational materials is increasing. I expect to develop more educational materials not only to aid in teaching and learning but to uplift rural and township schools.
11. Lastly what advice can you give to any young person out there who has an idea to invent
something, but doesn’t have the courage to begin?
Just begin! … invest in R & D, spend time understanding your market ,and thereafter model as you move forward with your idea. “Trust your VISION and continue to extend the DREAM, Keep pushing for success and never pull your idea back because of FEAR” Lebang