Practise adds up to maths top spot

2017-06-13 06:02
Emil van der Walt

Emil van der Walt

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A Jan van Riebeeck High School learner will be one of six to represent the province at the International Mathematical Olympiad.

Grade 10 learner Emil van der Walt will be jetting off too Brazil with the team next month. He was selected after two Olympiad camps were held in December and April, topping sixty other learners for the prestigious spot. During the camps, the learners participated in a series of mathematical lectures and tests requiring insight, ingenuity and logical rigorous proofs. The South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF) then selected six learners for the olympiad.

Emil says: “It is a great privilege to have been chosen as one of the six learners. It means we get to represent our country in our green SA colours and compete against the best mathematical teams from more than a 100 nations.”

Prof Johann Engelbrecht, executive director of the SAMF says: “This is a talented group of learners, who were selected after really hard work and commitment. We are excited about the challenge ahead and believe that the learners will be up for it.”

Emil will be joined by Tim Schlesinger (Grade 11, Rondebosch Boys’ High School), Taariq Mowzer (Grade 10, Fairbairn College), Ralph McDougall (Grade 11, Curro Durbanville), Aaron Naidu (Grade 10, Eden College) and Adri Wessels (Grade 10, Curro Durbanville).

Emil spends about 15 hours on mathematics per week, and also attends classes outside of school, such as the UCT Maths Circle.

“It is not difficult for me to make time for mathematics. It’s rather that I would like to spend all the time I have available on it but obviously I need to make time for my other schoolwork as well,” he says.

“Mathematics has always been my favourite subject as it explains so much about the world. My dad is an actuary and enriched me mathematically from an early age. My grandfather was the head of Mathematics and later Computer Science at Stellenbosch University,” he says.

The young mathematician believes the key to success is simple: Practise.

“You just have to practise. You learn through struggling. It’s simply the time you put in working through questions that makes a difference.”

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