Maths challenge equals success

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Students from seven primary and three high schools in Sydney’s south flexed their mathematical muscles at a Maths Challenge Day hosted by Mount St Joseph Milperra.
Algebra, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and riddles which asked the 145 participants from Years 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 to think outside the box emphasised problem solving and collaboration skills at the event on Wednesday, October 14.

Students were seated in teams which include a student from each grade, and calculated their average age as an ice-breaker activity.
Parents were also invited to join in some of the challenges, which included writing calculations using only the number nine a maximum of three times to find the individual numbers on a clock face as their answers. For example, nine divided by nine equals one, and the square root of nine is three.

“It was a great challenge and every student at the table could participate,” said Mount St Joseph Milperra’s Gifted and Talented Reference Teacher Leigh-Ann Cornforth.
“It really shows the students that their learning is a continuum, and it starts right at the beginning of primary school and continues on into high school.
“Working together, the primary students get to see how the high school students might solve a mathematical problem, and the high school students that sometimes overthink a question might see a really simple strategy that they could have used to solve it.”

“A lot of these students at their own school are at the top of their class and the ones that can solve everything and do the work quite easily, but when they come here they have to learn how to work with other people as well. They might make friendships that continue until they meet each other again in high school.”

It really shows the students that their learning is a continuum.

– Leigh-Ann Cornforth

Year 5 student at St Luke’s Catholic Primary Revesby Sarah Heraghty said the day was challenging and fun. “I was very excited to be here,” she said. “Some of the things we were doing were very difficult. I liked the quizzes the best and working with other people of different ages.”

Her father John also attended. An Information Technology worker, he said it was great to see an emphasis on mathematics in schools as fields like data and analytics became more in demand in the workforce.

“I loved the concept of the different age groups,” he said. “There were questions there that were geared towards high school students and she’s only in primary, so it has made her feel challenged, and made her realise she can ask questions.

“So many things have a hidden number or pattern behind them, especially with big data and analytics coming to the fore in the workplace now, and that idea of being able to predict or work out what might happen in the future. That’s a skill that hopefully these kids might get to work on.”

Sam Smith, a Year 4 student at St Christopher’s Catholic Primary School Panania, said the day was very challenging. “At school we just learn the basics about certain subjects, but here we learned a lot more like algebra, volume and division,” he said.

His mother Kate O’Reilley said she was impressed by the social aspect of the event.“Seeing the kids work as a group, and just seeing the diversity of skills was fantastic,” she said. “Sam’s only in Year 4 and he had the opportunity to work with Year 10 kids, which was great.”

Year 10 students Sammi Moussa (De La Salle College Revesby Heights) and Julie Dao (Mount St Joseph Milperra) will both study 3 Unit Mathematics next year. They said they found the day rewarding. “Working with the younger kids was good because it reminded us of all the basic skills we’ve learnt,” Sammi said. “I was learning from them while they were learning from me.”
Julie said the day offered her an experience outside that of a regular maths class. “It’s really good working with kids of different ages. I liked talking to other people around the table and seeing how different people think.”

Schools that attended were:

  • Mount St Joseph Milperra
  • LaSalle Catholic College Bankstown
  • De La Salle College Revesby Heights
  • St John Vianney Catholic Primary Greenacre
  • St Luke’s Catholic Primary Revesby
  • St Mary’s Catholic Primary Georges Hall
  • St Therese Catholic Primary Padstow
  • St Christopher’s Catholic Primary Panania
  • Christ the King Catholic School Bass Hill
  • St Brendan’s Catholic Primary Bankstown Central

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