Boys dominate International Math Olympiad

2014-06-24 19:59

Cape Town - Girls account for fewer than 10% of the participants in the International Mathematics Olympiad taking place in Cape Town next month, the organisers said on Tuesday.

All six South African contestants in the event are boys, with five from affluent schools in the Western Cape and one from Durban's Star College.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the dominance of boys in the competition reflected a worrying tendency in local schools for girls not to pursue top-level mathematics.

Chairperson of the Olympiad, Rhodes University Vice Chancellor Sizwe Mabizela, said this was a global trend.

"Internationally only 56 girls are taking part on this level... It is a world-wide phenomenon."

John Webb, emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Cape Town, which is hosting the olympiad from 7 to 9 June, ventured that research had shown a link between a mild form of autism and mathematical brilliance.

"Four times as many boys suffer from autism and Asperger's syndrome as girls," he said, adding that testosterone might also make more boys more attracted to aggressive problem solving required by mathematics.

Motshekga smiled and said: "My take has been socialisation."

Opting for maths literacy

She said her department was concerned about a general propensity among South African pupils to opt out of higher grade mathematics in favour of mathematics literacy.

But asked about the demographics of the schools that produced the local contestants, she said schools in rural Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal had debunked the myth that top students necessarily came from affluent areas.

"There are many schools where African and poor kids even perform better than others," she said, adding it showed that leadership and management were more important in producing education results than money.

The olympiad will see 582 students from 108 countries compete in solving six complex mathematical problems.

It is the highest number of nations ever to take part, with 12 coming from Africa.

Mabizela said it is the first time as many African countries are taking part and he hoped the figure would grow.

"It is a tremendous achievement. In the past it was two or three."

  • Z3RO-SKiNNY - 2014-06-24 20:40

    BBBBUUUURRRRNNNN!!!! Feminists, where are you?

      Z3RO-SKiNNY - 2014-06-24 20:42

      Probably still having 'The Second Sex' explained to them... with pictures!

  • Tavengwa Chivirira Muchini - 2014-06-24 20:47

    How many are from here in Zimbabwe?

      Pete Doherty - 2014-06-24 21:48

      Not sure they are any and its not necessary..Zim is above the global numerical par..and it can not sit on the same table with the rest . It has its own oympiad previously sponsored by Old mutual to spot aspiring actuarial candidates. Its many times tougher..and with can go anywhere around the world.

  • George Slade - 2014-06-24 21:05

    Is the Quoto system in place here as well?

  • Wehr Wulf - 2014-06-24 21:39

    No surprises there. Getting my daughter to show interest in mathematics is near darn impossible. My boys on the other hand excel.

  • Danie - 2014-06-24 21:41

    The girls were too busy visiting fancy workplaces in the 'Take a girl child to work' to study Maths.

  • Peter William - 2014-06-24 21:55

    Holding the olympiad 7 to 9 June. Don't you mean July. We are already the 24th June. Just asking

  • Peter William - 2014-06-24 21:59

    I could never get my head around maths, but heaven above the maths now is enough to drive me crazy.

  • Nico de Jongh - 2014-06-24 22:14

    Teaching techniques is of uttermost importance which is yet to be unearth on this continent.

      Themba Khumalo - 2014-06-24 22:59

      You do not know your history and the history of Mathematics and other arts. It would help if ignoramuses such as you did not comment at all.

      Themba Khumalo - 2014-06-24 23:01

      You do not know your history and the history of Mathematics and other arts. It would help if ignoramuses such as you did not comment at all.

      JeanClaude Vandamme - 2014-06-24 23:33

      and I guess you are the guy to help us with that? Or you're just another rambling boer...

  • JeanClaude Vandamme - 2014-06-24 23:28

    I went to school with a guy who could ace a math test after being 6 months absent from school due to an illness and yet his gifts were never recognised coz we are all classified as dumb just because we didn't go to 'good' schools (never got under 90%in maths but the guy was far better than me) how do you justify that?

      Pete Doherty - 2014-06-25 03:25

      Get off the mourning wagon. Maths is maths...u dont need to be rich to make it. I passed Maths with A grades at school without going to class or reading any book..i was only after cuties ..zim further maths was not a walk in the park. I was not from a toffy background yet here i am in the city employing 18 whites kids in computing. MY twin brother is the same...he got top grades in maths sleeping , skipped undergrad and went straight to do PHD in Computational Maths. Nothing can hold talent back.

      Peter William - 2014-06-25 04:23

      My son struggled with maths in his junior school, I saw an ad for maths tuition. The tutor said with math it's like building a wall every brick has to be in place and strong. He started off by breaking down what my son knew and understood and started again. Suddenly it all clicked and away he went. Today he is a maths boffin.

  • John Stoltz - 2014-06-25 06:41

    May Angie please hand over the "Wooden Spoon" to the candidate with the worst results?? It will be very fitting to her tenure as education minister!!

  • John Stoltz - 2014-06-25 06:43

    Cant wait for the Gov to announce that at least 50% of the candidates must be of colour, like in the rugby team!! Cant wait for the results to be manipulated to reflect a "fixed" outcome, like our matric pass marks!!

      Mike Turner - 2014-06-25 06:56

      I'm afraid that you're right, John: with brain-dead fools like Motshekga in "charge", our kids haven't a hope in hell.

  • Tricky Ross Ntsoelinyane - 2014-07-10 20:05

    my name is Nkosiyethu from Estern Cape, I will like to know how to enter this phenomenon?

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