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Maths whizz kids off to Bulgaria and Hong Kong

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Maths whizz kids off to Bulgaria and Hong Kong
James Falconer(13) and Tristan Collis(13), both Grade 7 learners at Sweet Valley Primary School, are just a few weeks away from competing in separate international maths competitions to be held oversees.

Mr Falconer, who will be competing at the annual International Maths Competition(IMC), leaves for Bulgaria on Friday June 28. The competition, which is being held for first time in South-Eastern Europe, will take place in the beautiful seaside city of Burgas from Sunday June 30 to Friday July 5.

“I never dreamt that I would get to go oversees for maths!” Mr Falconer said, “so I am really looking forward to the trip; not just for the maths but also because I am going to meet people from all over the world.”

His school friend, Mr Collis, qualified to compete at another international maths event, the Po Leung Kuk Primary Mathematics World Contest. Held every year in Hong Kong, the organizers of the event, Po Leung Kuk and the Hong Kong Institute of Education, hope that the competition will stimulate primary school students’ interest in mathematics and provide a cultural and academic exchange opportunity for the young contestants.

“I am definitely looking forward to it, I am going to Hong Kong!” Mr Collis exclaimed, adding that he was excited about the things he would see, all the new cultures he would be exposed to and the new food he would get to taste.

Both Mr Falconer and Mr Collis, who had to get through two qualifying rounds to make their respective teams, have to attend weekly training sessions, held alternately at Elkanah House and Bishops Primary School. Participants in both competitions are given Mathematics training in problem-solving, lateral thinking, numeracy, geometry and critical thinking.

According to Doug Falconer(45), James’s dad, the standard of maths in the Asian countries is of a much higher level. “In Asia, Grade 7 learners are doing Grade 9 and 10 maths already, so these Monday training sessions have been invaluable.”

“In the beginning the extra lessons were very difficult,” said the young Mr Falconer, “I thought, ‘where’s the maths, its just words?’ But now I’m used to it. We are also learning the basics of trigonometry and working with circles, which is very interesting.”

Mr Collis agreed with Mr Falconer, “The training is very interesting, the maths is exciting and I love being extended. It is so exciting knowing that I will compete against world class mathematicians.”

The experience comes at a cost though. “Some sucker is going to have to pay R23000,00 to get their kid oversees,” Mr Falconer, James’ father, quipped to another parent at the ceremony to announce the teams. “I should have known my boy was going to be selected,” he says in hind-sight.

The young Mr Collis and Mr Falconer are not just maths whizzes though, both have shown themselves to be resourceful young men. For his part, Mr Falconer spent his holidays looking after peoples gardens while they were away on holiday, walking dogs and washing cars. For his efforts he managed to save up a R1000,00 towards his trip. A friend of his, Hannah Nelson(13), who stays in Oxford, England, graciously contributed a £100 towards his expenses from the money that she earned through babysitting.

Mr Collis is not sure of the job he will end up doing one day, but he hopes to combine his two passions, maths and computers. To help further his dream and pay for his trip he managed to sell an old fridge he was given on gum tree and has put a lot of effort into selling tickets for a fundraiser his mom, Chanel Collis, and James’ mom, Caren Falconer, have organized.

“We have arranged for Robert Brain, an accredited Life and Business Coach, Saskia Wild, the founder of Simply Sorted and Relda Budge, a Skincare Therapist, to chat about de-cluttering your thinking and getting what you want out of life over a cup of coffee and freshly baked muffins,” said Mrs Collis.

The fundraiser, which is being held a the 1st Bergvliet Scout Hall in Bergvliet, takes place from 3pm to 5pm on Saturday June 8. “Interested people can get more information or register at www.events.potion.co.za,” said Mrs Falconer, adding that there were limited seats available.

Words and images by Clinton Wittstock
Freelance writer and photographer
Article appeared in the Constantiaberg Bulletin

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