Secondary students enjoy the challenge of UNE Maths Day

Published 14 May 2012

Keen young mathematicians from 39 secondary schools throughout northern NSW met at the University of New England last Friday (11 May) for a day of stimulating competition.

The 260 students, accompanied by 65 teachers and parents, travelled to UNE for the University’s annual Year 8 Mathematics Day. It was the biggest number of participants in the history of the Mathematics Day, which is now in its 18th year.

Working in 65 teams of four, the students had an enjoyable experience of cooperative problem solving and applying mathematics to real-life situations.

“They absolutely love it,” said Brad Giffin, a mathematics teacher at Dorrigo High School who accompanied eight of his students to UNE for the day. “They’re challenged but not stressed. They all have smiles on their faces. And, in addition, it’s a social outing for them.”

Mr Giffin has been bringing teams of students from Dorrigo to the Mathematics Day for the past 11 years, and uses the opportunity to show them around the University’s campus – including its residential colleges and sporting facilities.

Pip Terry, one of Mr Giffin’s students, confirmed that she and her team-mates were enjoying not only the mathematical challenges but also the social side of the day. “We’ve caught up with some of our friends from NEGS (the New England Girls’ School) and PLC Armidale,” she said.

One of two teams from Uralla Central School won the trophy in the central schools division, and a team from Armidale High won the trophy for high schools. The other Uralla team came second in the central schools’ division, with a team from Manilla Central School coming third. Second and third in the high schools division were teams from O’Connor Catholic College (Armidale) and Bellingen High School. Students from Macintyre High School (Inverell) and The Armidale School tied as winners of the “construction” competition, which challenged the teams to build the tallest free-standing tower from the materials provided.

The Year 8 Mathematics Day is sponsored each year by the New England Mathematical Association, the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMMER), and UNE’s School of Education.

At the end of the day on Friday, UNE’s Professor John Pegg, the Director of SiMMER, thanked everyone involved, and particularly the teachers from the New England Mathematical Association who had devised the questions and answers. He also acknowledged the support of those teachers who, after bringing students to the Mathematics Day for many years, were now approaching their retirement.