The Science Learning Centre for Africa, at the University of the Western Cape hosted its annual Women in Mathematics Mini-Conversation last Friday as they enlightened high-school pupils about the importance of mathematics.
This mini-convention is held annually as part of the university’s celebration of women during August. This year it was held at the Capetonian Hotel and brought together 125 girls from 25 secondary schools in disadvantaged areas across the Cape Flats who have still managed to maintain a reasonable level of achievement in mathematics.
Among the pupils present were Heideveld High School Grade 11 pupils, Kauthar Schoeman, Wafeeqah Moosa, Tayla Brink, and Zoey Sias.
Guest speaker Doctor Maryam Fish from the University of Cape Town, said her passion for maths began at an early age and she was always encouraged to do well by her parents who both pursued careers in maths.
When she was growing up, she said, she participated in maths competitions and olympiads and was supported by the principals of her primary and high schools.
“Maths is important to pursue a career in many fields in the future and to study at university,” she said.
Another guest speaker, Dr Ronelda Benjamin from Stellenbosch University, explained how hard work contributed to her success. She said as a scholar she had loved problem-solving and spent a lot of time concentrating on it which made her seem “weird” to her siblings.
“They thought I was a strange child,” she said.
She said while at high school she received a bursary from the African Scholars Fund and after that doors started opening for her.
“Reporters came to the school and asked us questions but I never answered any of it, one thing that I did say was that I wanted to become a professor in maths. Things turned out well but that’s because I worked hard first,” she said.
She encouraged the girls to do well and keep working hard. “Maths is needed at university so keep doing well.”
One of the pupils asked what her advice was for pupils who struggled with maths. She said better maths teachers were needed as teachers were not teaching the subject properly.
This, she said, was a huge problem and could make pupils love or hate the subject.
“Maths is like a river, you cannot just jump in – you need to follow it from the start. Sort our your problems early and don’t wait for the day before the exam,” she said.
Heideveld High School pupil, Tayla Brink, said what she liked about maths most was problem solving.
She said her father supported her in doing well in maths.
“I am hoping to get inspiration from this event, especially for Grade 12. I am hoping to study further and get a degree so that I can uplift my community,” she said.
Another pupil, Zoey Sias said she had loved maths since primary school as she had a passion for numbers.
“I am the only one in my family who loves maths and my dad always encouraged me to do well in maths. If you go further in life you can inspire others to become better,” she said.