Maths challenge inspires teamwork

Maths Challenge-102a

Teamwork: All Saints students Carmeli Aigana and Anthony Phun work at problem solving during the schools inter-school 2015 Maths Challenge. Photo: Kitty Beale

Problem solving took centre stage at a 2015 Maths Challenge hosted by the All Saints’ community of schools at All Saints Catholic Senior College Casula on Friday.

Year 5 and 6 students from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary Moorebank, St Christopher’s Catholic Primary Holsworthy and All Saints’ Catholic Primary Liverpool joined Year 11 students from the Casula school and students in Years 7 to 10 from All Saints Catholic Boys’ and Girls’ Colleges  for a day of questioning, mathematical problems, numeric puzzles and a ‘fraction frenzy’.

The day began with a talk by Hugh Colburn, a mathematician and engineer from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) education branch.

He described mathematics as the glue that holds Science, Technology and Engineering fields together and said problem-solving was key to preparing for future careers, including some that don’t yet exist.

“I don’t know where you are heading but I deeply believe that mathematics, problem-solving and an understanding of technology will get you there,” he told students.

“One of the jobs of the CSIRO is to raise the standard of Mathematics in Australia because we are falling down in international comparisons, and the future is going to be for people who can solve problems using Mathematics, using technology and engineering.”

Students worked across grades with students from years 5 to 11 included in each challenge group.

The spirit of cooperation will continue in 2016 when the All Saints Catholic Boys’ and Girls’ Colleges merge. NAPLAN data released this month showed significant learning growth in mathematics at both schools.

Year 10 student Anthony Phun, 16, took part in the challenge last year. He said though the questions were difficult, they helped to develop teamwork skills.

“We work as a group and solve different maths questions,” he said. “It makes you work harder under pressure, so it makes doing tests easier, and helps give you experience in working together as a team.”

“We assign some of the easier parts to the younger students and the harder parts to the older ones.

Year 9 students Olivia Widjaja and Carmeli Aigana, both 14, said they enjoyed the day.

“We were used to textbook work and these were predominantly problem solving questions,” Olivia said. “It was really challenging.”

Carmeli said the questions were unexpected but that working in teams across the grades was beneficial. “Everyone guides each other,” she said.

Year 6 student Neilston Louis, 11, was part of the 2014 Maths Challenge’s winning team.

“Last year was really fun,” he said. “I liked the challenges because you really have to think about them. You get to meet new people that you’ve never met before and make new friends.

Mathematics coordinator at the All Saints’ senior college Alent Vargas said the challenge provided bright students who don’t feel challenged in the classroom to be extended among like-minded peers.

“This is a good opportunity for them to see that they are not alone in terms of their mathematical ability,” Ms Vargas said. “Some kids supress that because they feel it’s not cool to be good at Maths. The universities say there are not enough students attracted to STEM courses – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – so I think this activity helps them to become aware of those.”

National Literacy and Numeracy Week is on August 31 to September 6.

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