Issue 9 - October 5, 2009 enews homee

Territory youngsters enrich their mathematical matter

Mathematics students engage in the robotics activity

Mathematics enrichment camp students heavily engaged in the popular robotics activity

By Row Booker

Children in Alice Springs and Darwin have been flexing their mathematical muscles at a series of educational camps supported by Charles Darwin University.

Senior Lecturer in mathematics, Dr Ian Roberts, from the School of Engineering, and Stephen Thornton, of the School of Education, worked with local teachers and the Maths Teachers Association of the NT to establish three-day “mathematics enrichment camps”.

The camps encourage Year Seven to Nine students to compete in a variety of problem-solving activities. The latest camps focussed on three major themes: graph theory, robotics, and numbers.

But the camps weren’t aimed solely at children who were nerdy with numbers.

“They’re engineered to encourage kids of all abilities to engage in mathematics. They don’t have to be ‘Einsteins’ to take part. They just have to be interested or open to becoming interested in maths and we find that most kids are interested if given the right experiences,” Dr Roberts said.

One of the most popular activities at this year’s camp involved robotics and 13-year-old Rishi Hyanki, from Essington School in Darwin, said this was by far his favourite activity.

“We got to program robots using a laptop so they moved around and we made them compete in a bleep-test to see which robot got the fastest time. It was pretty cool,” Rishi said.

“We know that kids and parents really value these positive experiences, and it is the role of a socially responsible institution like CDU to provide such leadership in all disciplines. There is a lot of after-school activities and significant funding for some disciplines such as sport, which is great, but there is a real need for activities in other disciplines,” Dr Roberts said.

He said another aim was to encourage mathematically gifted students to take part in national and international events.

“We hope that by engaging kids in maths from an early age we can systematically train them and give them the right exposure to the subject so that, by the time they reach school Year 11, they have seen some of the beauty and richness of mathematics, one of humans’ greatest cultural achievements, and are motivated and enabled to continue their studies when it starts to get really interesting,” he said.