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In 1977 Mona Leeuwenburg initiated, organised 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' centres helped to organise 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. AMESA Regional Organisers still organise the two rounds at schools in their regions.
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:
The 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 recognise 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 a First Round and a Final Round, with separate papers for Grade 4, 5, 6 and 7 set by a Committee. Each paper is an hour long and consists of 20 multiple choice questions.
The First Round is written in schools on a specific date determined by the organisers at a time as arranged by the school. The papers are distributed only by e-mail to schools through Regional Organisers. Schools make copies of the papers for their learners. The entry fee (for both rounds) is R10 per learner.
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 Final Round is for learners who achieved 50% or more in the First Round. It is written at a central venue in different regions (a group of schools in geographic proximity). 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! The Regional Organisers take responsibility to organise the Final Round for their region. The SAMF duplicate the papers and courier it to the venues.
The Challenge recognises achievement and awards the following certificates: All learners scoring more than 80% in the Final receive a "gold" Certificate of Achievement, those scoring 80% or less, but more than 60% receive "silver", and those scoring more than 50% to a maximum of 60% receive "bronze" Certificates. Each region can maybe, organise an award ceremony at a local school.
Presently over 110 000 learners from more than 500 schools participate in the Challenge every year.