13 March, 2024

Why success in mathematics at Northbridge is a collaborative effort between teachers, students and parents

Why success in mathematics at Northbridge is a collaborative effort between teachers, students and parents - Why success in mathematics at Northbridge is a collaborative effort between teachers and parents
Why success in mathematics at Northbridge is a collaborative effort between teachers, students and parents

By Mike Camp
Secondary Mathematics Curriculum Leader

This week has been an exciting week for those of us interested in mathematics education at Northbridge International School Cambodia. We were honored to host educators not only from neighboring schools but also from across international borders for the Southeast Asia Maths Conference featuring Liz Gibbs. 

Additionally, our Parent Workshop last Friday saw a remarkable turnout, signifying an encouraging interest from parents in their children's mathematical journey. We firmly believe that success in mathematics is a collaborative effort, involving not just teachers and students, but also parents.

On a global scale, this week holds special significance for mathematicians as this week was Pi Day, celebrated every year on March 14th. The choice of date, 3/14, aligns with the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi (3.14).

Despite hailing from a country where the date convention typically places the day before the month, we embrace this format, recognizing the universal appeal of Pi Day. Another good reason to celebrate it is that in 2019 UNESCO declared that as from 2020, 14th March is now known as the International Day of Mathematics.

To mark Pi Day, our students engaged in a Pi Day team quiz, which required them to draw upon knowledge from various subjects, along with research and mathematical skills such as logic, lateral thinking, inspiration, and creativity. An example of one of the tasks was to name the part of the circle represented in the above diagram (as is tradition the answer is posted in italics after all the other paragraphs in this post).

Pi Day may seem like a day when “maths types” come out of wherever they have been hiding all year, get to show off why they love maths to “non-maths” people who then politely listen before maybe occasionally grudgingly accepting that sometimes some maths can be interesting, or useful (and maybe sometimes both?)

I would like to challenge the notion of there being distinct "maths people" and "non-maths people." Mathematics is inherent to human decision-making; choices we make involve mathematical reasoning, whether consciously or not. I have witnessed firsthand in Phnom Penh the mathematical skills of tuk-tuk drivers navigating routes and making decisions based on the traffic ahead and known shortcuts.

They may not know they are doing this, but they are to some extent utilizing graph theory – a topic some of our students will study in the diploma programme HL Applications and Interpretation course. If I am suitably impressed with their application of graph theory, they can get a five star review.

We are all, to varying degrees, "maths people." Some may find joy in solving puzzles and equations, while others may approach mathematics with apprehension. Personally, I relish tackling mathematical challenges, evident in my daily ritual of solving my latest math problem while I drink my (first) morning espresso (Alfred Renyi once said “a mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems”).

However, there's nothing inherently special about me; my affinity for mathematics stems from the hours I have spent doing it. With practice and perseverance and a bit of risk taking, anyone can enhance their mathematical proficiency.

At Northbridge, our ethos revolves around the belief that every student possesses the capability to succeed in mathematics. Through dedicated practice and comprehensive exploration of topics, we aim to instill confidence in our students, ensuring mastery of both concepts and procedures. In doing so we expect this to lead to our students to achieve excellent outcomes in their results and summative assessments.

So, as we celebrate Pi Day, I encourage you to embrace mathematical exploration, perhaps by solving a puzzle or two. Let's dispel the notion of rigid divides between "maths people" and others; we are all travelling on our unique mathematical journeys throughout life.

(Answer to the above problem: Circumference – the pi is positioned on the music staff in the position D. πD is the formula for a circle's circumference.)