What would bring 170 grade 11 and 12 learners onto the campus on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon with the Stormers taking on the Chiefs at Newlands at the time to boot? The answer, of course, is to participate in the UCT Mathematics afternoon.
The afternoon, which took place on 14 March, included talks by Dr Jonathan Shock on frontiers in particle physics, and one by Emeritus Associate Professor Christopher Gilmour titled "Some Sums" – both of whom are from UCT's Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics – followed by a competition and refreshments.
The learners were from some 40 schools, including one from Laingsburg. These afternoons have been running twice a year since 1985 and in the present format since 1987. They're organised by Gilmour, together with Emeritus Prof John Webb and Dr Jurie Conradie.
It is conservatively estimated that some 8 000 to 9 000 learners have participated over the years. Many of the participants come to UCT and more than a few have gone on to higher degrees in mathematics and other disciplines.
Talks are typically given by members of the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics and cover a broad spectrum of mathematical and related topics. Together with the competitions they are very much geared to stimulating interest in mathematics beyond the school curriculum.
The math furore doesn't simply die down after UCT opens its doors on Mathematics Day. Many of the visitors return to take part in increasingly prestigious events later in the year.
How did it all start?
The UCT Mathematics Competition had started out as a very small event. In the video below, John Webb explains how the competition expanded suddenly in 1977. At a time when Westerford – the school that hosted the competition at the time – had undertaken remodelling their school hall, UCT offered to host it. It's been on campus ever since.
UCT Maths Competition video courtesy of Grant Hillebrand.
Just how smart are these kids?
We've put the following quiz together for you to see just how closely you measure up to Cape Town's top grade 8-12 students. Remember, it's on a timer, so the quicker you respond the better your chances are. You'll do even better when you answer the questions correctly.
Story by Thaheer Mullins and Chris Gilmour.
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