World’s maths whizz-kids headed for South Africa

25 June 2014

The cream of the next generation of mathematicians, represented by 582 high school students from 109 countries, will converge on Cape Town in July for the 55th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) – the first to be held in Africa.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, briefing journalists in Cape Town on Tuesday, said South Africa hoped that hosting the prestigious event would generate enthusiasm around mathematics and help to inspire the country’s future engineers, accountants, doctors, teachers and inventors.

“We do believe that it is important for learners to enjoy mathematics, and this Olympiad gives participants a unique opportunity to broaden their mathematics horizon and compete against the very best in the world,” Motshekga said.

Professor John Webb, the event’s director and a lecturer at the University of Cape Town, said the event would “bring mathematics into the public eye and highlight the importance of mathematics education in South Africa’s economic and technological development.”

Each participating country enters a team of up to six high school students in the problem-solving contest. The teams sit for up to four-and-a-half hours a day over two days, tackling six problems covering areas of maths that are not directly dealt with in schools.

Their solutions are assessed by their team leaders and their marks are approved in consultation with a team of coordinators appointed by the host country. A maximum of seven points are awarded per problem.

The top half of the contestants are awarded with gold, silver and bronze medals. All contestants who do not win a medal, but have solved at least one problem correctly, earn an honourable mention.

The Olympiad will take place at the University of Cape Town from 13 to 12 July. The event is being organised by the SA Mathematics Foundation, with support from the Department of Basic Education and sponsors Google, SABC Education, the South African National Roads Agency and Sasol.

The six students representing South Africa at the event are: Sanjiv Ranchod (Grade 10, Westerford High School, Cape Town); Tae Jun Park (Grade 11, Rondebosch Boys’ High School, Cape Town); Yaseen Mowzer (Grade 10, Fairbairn College, Cape Town); Bronson Rudner (Grade 10, South African College High School, Cape Town); Nashlen Govindasamy (Grade 12, Star College, Durban); and Robin Visser (Grade 12, St George’s Grammar School, Cape Town).

The six were chosen from the top performing learners in the South African Mathematics Olympiad, an annual competition for high school learners countrywide. and SAinfo reporter