Each year, thousands of high school learners participate in the annual Old Mutual South African Mathematics Olympiad (SAMO). The country's schools are getting ready to open for the 2021 academic year, and once again mathematics teachers will have an opportunity to register their learners for this prestigious competition.
Last year's winner of the Junior division for Grades 8-10 was Minkyum Kim from Reddam House Durbanville. He says that "winning the SAMO was one of my goals for last year, and I feel good that I have achieved that goal. I hope that this achievement will be the first of many more to come in the future." Minkyum's hobbies include playing games, watching anime, programming, and reading mystery and dystopian novels.
"I first realised I love mathematics when I was in grade 1," he says. "I remember winning my age group in the MNED mathematics competition. At the time, my English was limited, but I realised that mathematics is universal, and language barriers did not restrict it."
Minkyum's parents and teachers played significant roles in his successes. "My parents always motivate me to try harder and try to become better, even when I feel like I am not progressing. My teachers helped me understand that mathematics isn't just about solving the problem; it is also about adequately presenting your solution."
He encourages high school learners looking to improve their mathematics beyond the school curriculum to participate in the SAMO. "The training camps are fun, and it was refreshing to spend time with others who enjoy mathematics as much as I do." The most challenging thing about the SAMO is getting used to the difference between school and Olympiad mathematics. "When my marks on Olympiad problems were lower than my school mathematics, I felt disappointed because it was not the usual marks I got at school. I had to change my mindset and learn that mathematics isn't just about studying the material and getting full marks, but repeatedly trying with different, creative methods until you can get the answer."
Prof Kerstin Jordaan, the executive director at the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) - the non-profit that organises the SAMO in partnership with Old Mutual and the South African Institute for Chartered Accountants (SAICA) - said that the organisation hopes to receive a record number of entries for 2021. "Last year we received nearly 90,000 entries for the first round," she says. "The first round for 2021 will be taking place on 11 March, and the closing date for online entries is 5 March. Learners who perform well in the first round will advance to the second round on 18 May, and finally, the top few hundred learners will compete in the third and final round on 22 July. The winners top 10, and the overall winner will be announced at the annual Awards Ceremony on 16 October."
Schools can enter their learners online on https://www.samf.ac.za/en/online-entry-2021. Schools without Internet access, can still complete the entry form manually. The closing date for manual entries is on 19 February. For any queries, contact David Ramaboka via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.