College all-star off to show Africa’s best ‘maths is fun’

2010-05-04 00:00

THIS month, Thala Msutu will put aside his involvement in rugby, cricket, debating, choir and drama to represent South Africa at the Pan African Maths Olympiad in the Ivory Coast.

The 16-year-old Maritzburg College all-rounder was chosen to be part of the four-person team which hopes to cross-multiply its way to success at the Olympiad from May 23.

Thala will make his way to the Ivory Coast later this month on crutches, after a rugby accident damaged a lateral ligament in his knee.

“It took four Michaelhouse boys to bring him down,” laughed the school’s Graham Bennetts.

Thala is more modest about the incident.

“It was more like three,” he said, grinning.

The grade 11 pupil has represented the Midlands in the inter-provincial maths team since grade eight. He was chosen for the South African team in December last year at a maths camp in Stellenbosch.

With an average maths grade of 95%, Thala said the subject is something he “just understands”.

Although the mathematical problems at the Olympiad will be significantly more difficult than school maths, Thala said he will have a similar approach to solving them.

“At school, I see a problem and I see a solution for it, but the process will take a little longer than usual. I’ll try to simplify the problems and see where I end up,” he said.

Before he leaves, Thala has one last performance as a lead in the school play. Asked what he will do about his injury, Thala said he would give his character a walking stick, and make him “a little older than he really is”.

Despite his many taxing school commitments, Thala remains good- natured with a humorous streak.

“Sure, maths is fun — when you’re getting the answers right,” he laughed.

Thala’s commitments keep him busy at school until after 8 pm almost every weekday, but he said he finds time to keep in contact with his friends.

“It’s like my mother loves to say: I’m always on Mxit!” he said.

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