Fun Mathematics Camp

Mathematics has been known as the mother of all sciences as its applications are endless. Despite its importance in solving daily problems, Mathematics has not been appreciated by most students as it is a robust and challenging subject.

With the goal of bringing Mathematics to the community and ignite the interest of Mathematics among young minds, Sunway’s School of Mathematical Sciences (SMS) hosted a One-Day Fun Mathematics Camp on the 8th of March for participants from age 11 to 15. However, having to consider the COVID-19 pandemic, the camp had to be postponed. Hence, the camp turned into a two-months camp where the Dean of SMS, Professor Ho Chee Kit, organized daily classes with his participants to prepare them for the grand final of the camp on the 9th of August.

The camp had a total of 8 participating groups where each group had a maximum of 5 members. With the help of a variety of sponsors such as Sunway’s GBMC and Sunway’s in-house actuary, Nicholas Yeo, some teams had the privilege of joining this camp along with the online sessions. Although there was a change of plans due to MCO, there is a silver lining among the dark clouds. Prof. Ho mentioned that instead of cramming the camp in a day, it was beneficial for him and the participants to have daily classes before the grand final. That way, he could get to know the participants better and track their progress and growth more effectively. The participants also had the time to interact with the other participants and form strong friendships in the process.

The online classes commenced from 30th of May where participants had the chance to learn from Prof. Ho via Zoom. The classes were held every week from Monday to Saturday until the grand final. The grand final was to test the participants on the knowledge they’ve learned. The Mathematics classes prepared by Prof. Ho covered topics such as number series, modulo arithmetic and the recurrence of the last few digits of prime numbers to the power of n. The classes were made even more interesting where participants could earn individual or team badges which would contribute to their individual or team final score for prizes. 

Source: VectorStock

Besides learning Mathematical theorems, the participants also had the chance to pick up analytical, communication and presentation skills when preparing for the poster competition. Prof. Ho had assigned each team a topic to research and they were required to present their findings during the grand final on Sunway Campus. The teams were tasked to study the pattern of the last few digits of different prime numbers to the power of n. Thus, the teams had to rack their brains on generalizing the pattern which requires them to extend what they have learned during Prof. Ho’s class.

Furthermore, the online classes would not be complete without the card tricks. After learning each card trick, participants had the opportunity to test themselves in performing the newly acquired card tricks to their classmates. This activity has brought the participants closer as they supported one another in their performance. With this, every participant was glad to have made friends from different schools and different age groups.

Source: Vecteezy

To summarize the online sessions, not only did Prof. Ho teach his students Mathematics, which is out of their school’s syllabus, but he also spiked up his students’ interest in Mathematics by teaching them the Mathematical secrets behind most card tricks. Hence, participants from the camp were able to learn something new and started to appreciate the beauty of Mathematics.

After two months of learning online, the grand final finally came. At 8 am, participants and their respective parents or guardians started to gather outside Sunway University JC Hall for registration. Once registered, each team went into JC hall and prepared for the individual Mathematics Competition which consisted of MCQ questions of every Mathematical principle they have learned throughout the camp. The competition started at 9 am and lasted for an hour.

Participants working hard at calculating the answers

After the individual competition, it was time for the poster presentation. The teams did outdo themselves in extending and expounding what they had learned as one team created a calculator to find the last digits of 17 to the power of n using google spreadsheets. In contrast, another team learned how to use LaTeX in typing out their Mathematical findings. Another team did even better by generalizing Prof. Ho’s results to the amazement of the audience. Overall, the teams put a lot of time and effort into preparing their findings and made Prof. Ho incredibly proud as they have proven themselves to have bright young minds. The participants were so brilliant that even the judges had a hard time determining the best team in presenting.

Team Unknown presenting their findings on stage
Team pi-thons with their theorem presentation
Team Mad Maths Maniacs and their work written in LaTeX

Once the presentation was done, the teams went on a short break to come back to a fun Kahoot session. The poster presentation and card trick competition help contribute to the final scores.

Kahoot session

Lastly, the time for the card trick competition arrived. Ten participants performed their respective tricks in hopes of contributing to their team. They all surprised the judges as they have successfully modified the card tricks learned. Just as the poster presentation, it was a tough decision to decide on the winner of this challenge.

A participant showing her card deck
 A participant interacting with the audience in his card trick
A participant showing off his skills with the cards

After all of the fun and exciting events, the prize award ceremony began. Parents were proud of their children when they got to see the results of the camp and the impact this camp had on their children. Smiles were plastered all over the participants’ and the parents’ faces. 

Hearing from a student helper, Evan Tey from BSc (Hons) in Actuarial Studies, the event was a success in being a platform for children to gain Mathematical knowledge as well as other crucial soft skills at such a young age. Seeing the joy from the participants sparked joy in him as well especially when the participants showed off their modified and enhanced card tricks. He also found the participants being very dedicated in learning from Prof. Ho as they joined every zoom session. Lastly, he highly recommends this event to others as the event proved to be beneficial for the participants as they got the chance to engage in advanced Mathematical theories and principles which are not taught in schools or even universities. So, do follow Sunway’s School of Mathematical Sciences Facebook page to get a close up on what’s in store! 

A group photo of all participants with their medals

To conclude, the participants enjoyed the Fun Mathematics Camp (FMC) and are interested in joining the next FMC. They were also grateful for this event as it helped them get through MCO by spending their time wisely to learn something “out of this world”. Many of them were also glad that this camp helped them to make new friends and learn from each other. Last but not least, the participants thanked Prof. Ho for his patience, guidance and his time for teaching them throughout the two months. In short, the participants learned that Mathematics is not just about numbers, formulas and calculations. Instead, it is an essential and versatile subject with countless practical applications in all areas of our daily life. Hence, from the participants, it is clear that despite being a tough subject, Mathematics can be a fun subject to learn.

Written by: Wu Wen Qi

Edited by: Pei Zoe

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