“Maths can be fun.” That was the message to approximately 2,000 secondary school students who attended the Math Fair at UWI, St Augustine campus on Thursday.
Math, a subject that has been the bane of many students’ existence drew record numbers to UWI, and, by the looks on the students’ faces and the nostalgia on their teachers’, the day was thoroughly enjoyed. They got the full UWI experience, save and except, the visit to Gate Boys.
Kaira Paul, associate professor at the department of mathematics explained, “Students will have a bunch of games and activities. They will go around, try different booths in the quadrangle and auditorium. We have a display of the competition winners who presented models and posters. In the lecture theatre, we have an opening ceremony, a math feud, and lectures regarding the application of maths in the real world. We also have tours of the campus and the Faculty of Science and Technology in particular.”
Feature speaker and actuary Kyle Rudden delivered a speech written entirely by artificial intelligence (AI). He said it took longer to read the speech than the 20 seconds AI took to write it.
Speaking to a packed lecture theatre, Rudden said, “I know some of you may be thinking, why do I need to learn maths, I’m never going to use it in real life. That is not true, nothing could be further from the truth. Maths is not a subject you study in school. It’s a tool you use in different aspects of life: finance, technology, engineering, medicine and everything in between.”
Rudden said, “Unfortunately, our educational structures don’t necessarily meet our social needs. I remember looking at my daughter learning the cosine rule. The only thing I ever used it for was calculus to pass exams. Yet, after decades I haven’t touched trigonometry. It’s good for engineering, but my daughter has to do that to get a CXC maths pass, even though all she wants to do is take care of children.
“I respectfully suggest that many of the topics on the basic maths syllabus are not necessarily relevant. What we see in the CXC syllabus is designed for people who want to go on to university and do math or STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.”
He said a teacher’s ability to connect to differently-abled learners has a lot to do with a student’s ability to learn math, recalling from his own classroom experience.
One teacher who worked with students at their learning level was Linda Deonath, the founder of Math Fair and who was awarded for her contribution.
Deonath, a teacher at St Joseph’s Convent, St Joseph, said, “It started in school to try to inspire the students to like maths, generally people don’t like maths.
“So for seven years, we had it in school. We had a website: www.nerdherdmathclub.webs.com, where you could see all the previous things we had.
“We started to invite other schools in the area and the feedback was good so we started to invite more schools, till in 2017 when the president came, it became so big that the school was too small to hold the amount of students.”
A professor at UWI recommended that the venue should switch to the St Augustine campus, she said, “so now it’s so big. I’m really proud.”
Amanda Ramdhan, OJT at Parvati Girls’ Hindu College in Debe said she hoped the maths fair would “get students engaged in maths so that they develop a better appreciation for the subject.
“When you look at SEA and CXC performances, it’s just really disheartening. I think last year only 30-something per cent passed. You know the kids losing the interest. I think this is a good event UWI is hosting to revive students’ interest in maths and improve the results.”
About the day, form three student at ASJA Boys’ College, Charlieville, Brian Kowlessar, said, “This here real fun, like real fun. I play games and it was real fun. That’s all I could say. I not sure what I play but it was real fun.”
Kowlessar and his class had had a tour of the campus. He and three friends agreed, “We’d love to come here.”
Andrew Soonachan, an upper six student at Miracle Ministries High School said he enjoyed learning about maths’ relevance to real life, and he had a great time exploring UWI.
Sebastian Wing, headboy at Queen’s Royal College, said, “It was really interactive. I won some stuff. I won the maths competition. I got a lollipop. I got some career advice from the biomedical kiosk. They gave me advice as to what courses to take after form six.”
Hillview College students Samuel Blache, Keston Lewis and Jibril Persaud went home with medals for the modelling and creativity competition.
“We designed our dream house which was hurricane and earthquake proof and for the creativity competition, we wrote a song about pi – it’s an extempo.
“Since the dawn of time, when Adam and Eve used to lime, pi, the constant we use to find everything in our lives. 3.14159, the beginning of an endless game with no tie. Pi, you are used in everything we learn,” and then they rhymed through a list of pi’s applications.”
Persaud said, “We designed a poster that displayed our design for a home using geometry. We had reinforced pillars at the base so it’d be earthquake proof. The category was math is everywhere, so we had to show its real-life application.”