Third Maseno Math Camp

3rd Maseno Maths Camp group photo (silly version).
3rd Maseno Maths Camp group photo (silly version).

The third annual Maseno math camp ran in the third week of August; it’s a bit hard to believe that we’re up to three already!

The week started with a great talk from Rejoyce Gavhi, a South African mathematician who just finished a postdoc in Canada, and who is now starting a new job with AIMS:Sec.  She talked about the challenges she overcame in pursuing mathematics as a woman from Africa, and was quite inspirational for everyone involved.

As usual, we divided this year’s camp up into five ‘themes.’  The themes this year were programming, modelling, geometry, combinatorics, and code-breaking.  I mainly helped put together the combinatorics section with Ingrid Mostert (from AIMS:Sec) and Santiago Borio, a Geogebra virtuoso who teaches school in London; the sessions were about the bijection between subsets and lattice paths, and seeing the binomial coefficients from different perspectives.  Chris Clarke put together some great sessions in the modelling section (for example, using massively multi-player dice-games to model the spread of a disease in a population).  The programming section focused on building flow charts to describe algorithms, which was a pretty different tack than we’d previously considered, and I think a good one.  I never really think of flow charts when I program, but breaking a process down into some ‘decision points’ and considering all possible outcomes is quite useful as a programmer.  Approaching the process via flow charts is a great way to organize that process in a visual way.

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Bahir Dar Maths Camp

Group shot from the Bahir Dar math camp.  The waterfall in the background is one of the major sources of the Nile!
Group shot from the Bahir Dar math camp. The waterfall in the background is one of the major sources of the Nile!

I’ve spent this last week helping with the first-ever Ethiopian math camp, hosted by the math department at Bahir Dar university. As with the Maseno math camp, we focused on giving activity-based sessions, teaching interesting math topics outside of the standard curriculum. The intention is to boost student interest in maths and to expose some teachers to different ways of thinking about mathematics. The big difference between the Maseno and BDU camps is that the students in Ethiopia are mainly Amharic speakers, with maybe a couple years of learning English under their belt. This makes it essential to build up and utilize the local staff to a degree that we aren’t forced to in Maseno. Luckily, the local staff is bright, imaginative, and ready to try new things. On the whole, it was a fantastic first attempt.

We gave thirty-ish sessions, divided into five topic areas: geometry, scientific research, card tricks, history of numbers, and ‘rules.’ I was a few days late arriving at the planning week, due to some medical exams I needed to get done in Addis, and so was mainly designing the card trick sessions. I also did a lot with the geometry group and gave a session each on cryptography and complex numbers.

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