South African Mathematics Challenge
In 1977 Mona Leeuwenburg initiated, organized and ran a “mini-mathematics” competition for Grade 7 learners in the Cape Peninsula. It proved to be popular with both learners and teachers and became an annual event. In 1985 MASA, one of the ancestors of AMESA, with the assistance of the teachers’ centers helped to organize the Mathematics Competition in other regions. In 1986 the Competition was extended to other grades. In 1995 the name was changed to The AMESA Mathematics Challenge . In 2011 AMESA requested SAMF to take over the administration of the Challenge. At present approximately 80,000 learners from 1,000 schools nationwide annually participate the SAMC. The competition is endorsed by the Department of Basic Education.
The Challenge is not an end in itself, but is intended as a vehicle to enhance the quality of the teaching and learning of mathematics. More specifically, the Challenge aims:
- to generate an interest in mathematics (to popularize mathematics);
- to promote a broader perspective on the nature of mathematical activity, including that mathematical activity is more than calculating;
- to promote problem solving in mathematics education;
- to promote the perspective that the calculator is a useful and necessary tool in mathematical activity (the calculator cannot solve problems for learners);
- to emphasize the importance of reading in mathematical activity;
- to provide a diagnostic tool to enable teachers to identify learners’ misconceptions;
- to develop and disseminate materials that can contribute to meaningful mathematical activity in classrooms.
Nature of the Challenge
Given these objectives it should be clear that the Challenge is not at all intended as yet another scholastic test. The Challenge questions are aimed at conceptual knowledge, the application of knowledge in new situations, problem solving, reasoning, communication and general mathematical thinking. We want the Challenge to help South Africans to become empowered independent creative and critical thinkers! And we believe mathematics is accessible to all , not just the selected few!
The Challenge is actually not about competition or about standards, but about participation , and we want learners to enjoy participating in the Challenge. We recognize that learners may initially find the questions quite challenging – hence the name Mathematics Challenge! But the questions are not necessarily “difficult” – they simply address a different dimension of mathematics of which our learners in the traditional curriculum have very little experience.
The Challenge consists of three rounds.
The First Round is open for all Grade 4 to 7 learners with separate papers for each grade. It is written at schools on a specific date determined by the organizers at a time as arranged by the school. Each paper is an hour long and consists of 20 multiple choice questions.The papers are distributed only by e-mail to schools and schools make copies of the papers for their learners. The entry fee is determined from year to year.
Given the aims and nature of the Challenge, we encourage schools to let all learners participate in the First Round. There are two categories of participation in each grade: “Confident” learners may prefer to participate as individuals ( singles ), whilst others may prefer to work in pairs ( doubles ).
Teachers mark the answers themselves from the memorandum that SAMF provides. Or the class may mark it during a class discussion!
The Second Round is for learners who achieve 50% or more in the First Round and is written at participating schools. There are again separate multiple choice papers for each grade and the duration is one hour. Learners will only participate as singles. The answers are marked by computer. Achievement certificates are awarded as follows:
- Gold: learners scoring more than 80% in the Second Round.
- Silver: learners scoring 80% or less, but more than 60% in the Second Round.
- Bronze: learners scoring more than 50% to a maximum of 60% in the Second Round.r
The best approximately 432 learners from the previous round qualify for the Third Round. This round is written at centralized provincial venues. There are two papers: Grades 4-5 learners write the Junior paper and Grades 6-7 learners write the Senior paper. Learners have 90 minutes to solve 15 challenging mathematical problems. An important aim with the Final Round is for learners to interact with others in the context of mathematics – mathematics is a social activity and we communicate with and about mathematics!
National Awards for learners
(based on the Third Round results):
The top 10 contestants of each division, ie 10 Juniors and 10 Seniors will receive their prizes at an awards ceremony. The overall winner of each division will receive a gold medal and the runners-up a silver medal.
National awards for schools
(based on the Third Round results):
- Overall top performing school
- School with the most entries
- Top performing new school
- Top performer per quintile
- Top performing per province