School students rise to the challenge of Tournament of Minds

Published 09 September 2010

tom_2010Some 250 school students from around the region have converged on UNE to test their problem-solving skills at north-west heats of the annual Tournament of Minds.

TOM is a spontaneous and long-term problem-solving competition between small groups of students ranging in age from six to 16. The competition involves solving an open-ended problem chosen from an area of interest within one of four key categories: Language/Literature, Applied Technology, Mathematics/Engineering and Social Sciences and preparing presentations over a five-week time frame at school.

The school students’ host at UNE, Dr Susen Smith, said: “TOM provides unique opportunities for students to be challenged in innumerable ways. Students use creative thinking, dramatising, oral communication, dance, role-play, cooperative learning and technologies, to problem-solve chosen and spontaneous challenges.”

Tournament of Minds (TOM) began in Australia and is now an Asian-Pacific and international event.

The director and organiser of the event, Jennifer Andrews, from the Department of Education and Training, said: “We couldn’t have held the event without our volunteers, such as our committed teacher facilitators who support their students during the five week preparation time and give up their weekend to support their students during the event”. 

Many principals, teachers, UNE students and community volunteers became TOM judges for the day and assessed students on the journey they took to achieve their responses using problem-solving techniques, democratic decision-making, time management, role allocations, team work, creativity and complexity of responses.

A unique feature of the day was the parent forum with an expert panel that provided the opportunity for questions to be answered on gifted children, enrichment programs, distance education, science education, acceleration, underachievement and strategies to support rural and regional students’ creativity.

Dr Susen Smith’s presentation to the packed auditorium of teachers, parents, consultants and students reiterated some of the enrichment and acceleration programs available across the region, such as the UNE Accelerated Pathways program in partnership with the NSW Board of Studies, TalentED Enrichment Program and Conferences, Parent Networks, Teacher Professional Learning Programs such as the ‘Education for Eco-engagement program’, Holiday camps, the DET’s ‘EGats’ on-line Mentoring program and the Drummond Memorial School’s ‘Mind Circus’ Enrichment program.

She was keen to thank UNE staff Fran Quinn, Merran Pearson, Kath Parker, Ruth Nicholls, Bing Ngu, Theodosia Prodromou, Julie Godwin, Imre Bokor and Noeleen Bowen for sharing their expertise on the day and the 20 UNE students who supported the event.

Winners from the north-west competition will now go on to compete at the State finals.

For any enquiries regarding professional learning for teachers, enrichment programs, differentiation projects or community support programs for parents or mentoring programs for community members please contact Dr Susen Smith at