“I feel like the food queue is going to be longer than the actual maths queue!”
This was overhead en route to the packed food court on the evening of 20 April, when close to 9 000 high-school maths whizzes converged on UCT’s upper campus for the 2017 UCT Mathematics Competition.
The food queues weren’t longer than the registration lines outside the 80 lecture venues the learners were writing in, but the maths competition is always good business for UCT’s food vendors as the hungry schoolkids power up their synapses. This year, a record number of learners, some from as far afield as Knysna and Beaufort West, were on site to tackle the conundrums.
Siphosethu Mangameli from Dr Harry Gwala Secondary School in Khayelitsha was a bundle of confidence and excitement.
“Little bit nervous, though!” grinned Mangameli, who was competing for the first time.
Her classmate and partner for the competition, Nikiwe Soga, had tried her hand at the competition once before.
“I found it exciting because I love maths a lot, and it was fun!” she said.
The two Grade 10 learners are aiming to take their friendship all the way through university – both plan on studying chartered accountancy at UCT.
Keeping a watchful eye on the thousands of guests and their chaperones were volunteers in bright yellow T-shirts.
Ntando Mendu, a UCT maths student, was stationed on Jameson plaza, making sure that the uniformed mathletes found their way around the sprawling and densely packed upper campus.
“We are directing students to where they are going to write and helping to make sure that everything is fine for students in terms of registration venues and all that,” said Mendu.
“They’ve been allocated by grade as to where they are going to register, so we’re indicating which buildings they must go to,” he added.
This was no mean feat, as, at some points, finding shuffle space among the sea of people on the plaza was almost as tricky as some of the questions they’d soon be wrestling. Demand for directions was high.
Maybe top 100
At the very top of the Jameson steps, Aiden Ryan and Caleb Lawrence were keeping their distance from the madding crowd.
The two Grade 10s are from Belgravia Secondary and Wynberg Boys’ High schools respectively. Both were taking part in the UCT Mathematics Competition for the first time.
“I’m looking forward to this competition,” said Lawrence. “It’s my first one. Really excited. Hopefully, maybe top 100!” said Lawrence.
He wasn’t nervous, but did have a slight concern: Did it get really hot in the classrooms?
Perhaps that depended on how difficult the questions were.
Ryan was also aiming for the top 100, but admitted that he was “very nervous”.
“It’s my first competition,” he said, observing that there were a great many schools on campus that evening.
“Looks like a lot of competition,” added Lawrence.
The top performing pupils at the UCT Mathematics Competition will be invited to take part in a second round, the UCT Invitational Mathematics Challenge on Saturday 13 May. A final round, the UCT Mathematics Olympiad, will take place on 20 May.
Prizes, certificates and trophies will be awarded at a prize-giving ceremony in the Baxter Concert Hall on 8 June.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.