Budding mathematicians enjoy summer workshops
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When university lecturers met primary school children at two summer workshops, the result was a refresher course for both parties. The kids were exposed to an informal environment, learning mathematics through games, chess and even shopping. The lecturers experienced a new facet of the joy of teaching through contact with talented pre-secondary school children.
Dr Benny Hon, Dr Felipe Cucker and Professor Mourad Ismail from the Department of Mathematics were enthusiastic when they recounted their experiences at the Summer MathCamp for Gifted Children, two seven-day workshops designed for talented kids aged 10 to 12. Held in July and early August in collaboration with the School of Continuing and Professional Education, the workshops attracted overwhelming response from 300 applicants, from whom 100 gifted children were selected. After a selection test and an oral interview, two classes of 40 and 60 gifted children were chosen to attend two one-week workshops held during 23?9 July and 30 July? August, respectively.
"Mathematical talent should be fostered in kids while they are still in primary school," said Dr Hon, who masterminded the maths camp. He is convinced that talent should be discovered and properly developed at an early age. "Mathematics is not simply about computing. In fact, too many boring computational assignments always end up destroying interest in the subject. It is about applying knowledge in mathematics to develop logical and analytical minds for solving real life problems." In line with his beliefs, fun, real-life situations and teamwork were emphasized in the workshops. Workshop participants were asked to solve intriguing puzzles like: How to measure the distance from Lion Rock to CityU? How to achieve optimum nutrition on a diet with the least amount of money? They were also inspired to appreciate and understand the mathematical principles behind winning a chess game, performing a magic show, sending secret codes and wrapping colorful Japanese origami.
The three lecturers were highly impressed by the enthusiasm to learn and the mathematical talents the young participants displayed. "Then I asked a question, they all raised their hands and their eyes sparkled with curiosity. I really look forward to another summer camp next year," said Dr Cucker. Professor Ismail said, "I will post some of the problems on the door of my office in South Florida and see how many college pupils of mine can solve them."
Dr Hon is now planning a programme with his department through which contact with these gifted children can be maintained. "Talent like this should be properly nurtured," he said.