Union’s Maths Camp

Determined to make a mathematical difference to Maths formal learners at Union High, Ian and Katrin Alleman have hosted the top set of learners each year in the Nieu-Bethesda for the past 5 years. During this time, engineer Gustav Weich inspires these learners and expands their thinking – unravelling how exciting and stimulating maths can be. With Ian and Katrin overseas this year, Ronel and Charmaine at ‘The Karoo Lamb’ ensured that the group were fed and housed comfortably for their 2 night stay in the little village.
This year Gustav took the group into his world of structural engineering. Through his skills of simplifying what he learned studying the subject for 6 years, he taught learners how to measure the weight that the bridge can withstand per meter. Bethesda has its very own suspended footbridge, so the topic was literally and figuratively right underneath their feet! The group also explored other bridge structures and how to measure how much weight certain types of bridges can withstand – allowing them to calculate what is needed to build bridges to carry desired mass. Learner Chevonne Prinsloo said, “Maths camp was a mathematical brain adventure. We questioned our knowledge and we have grown closer as a group. Thank you to those who made us laugh, and to those who helped us solve the problems. We hope to have more adventures like this one!”

Roslyn Sparks summed up the camp in a creative manner, “ By subtracting ourselves from our ordinary lives and adding some adventure to the equation, we learned a very special type of maths this weekend. I couldn’t help but wonder that if we multiplied the time we spent there, just how much more we could have learned. Thanks to everyone who invested time in us to make this camp possible!”

Maths teacher, Elrich Jantjies, explained how they also looked at Game Theory – a common principle used in everyday life that many are unaware of. Game theory is the process of modelling the strategic interaction between two or more players in a situation containing set rules and outcomes.

Today, game theory applies to a wide range of behavioural relations, and is now an umbrella term for the science of logical decision making in human, animals and computers. Yu-Pei Rong expressed, “ I have never experienced a more intense level of frustration than sitting hours on end with a maths problem, only to find out that the answer was wrong the entire time! But maths camp has taught me resilience and perseverance and has given me the will to try again and again!”

Mr Jantjies says that each year the group does something completely different under the guidance of Gustav, but the main objective stays the same: “Even if they don’t remember everything they’ve learnt, we want learners to fall in love with mathematics, and know that it’s not about getting the right answer, but about their journey getting there. We also want the grade to grow closer and work together, because this is the way the world works.” Thanks to the generosity of people like Ian and Katrin, and the expertise of Gustav and Mr Jantjies, they have managed to achieve this over the past 5 years.

“Challenging yet motivational, I’m thankful to everyone who I shared it with and the friendly Nieu-Bethesda locals too! This weekend was certainly a reminder that even if we aren’t the best at maths, it can be fun!” (Kirsten King), and to sum it all up perfectly, Zintle Maki said, “Maths camp was phenomenal, it formed a bridge between the fun and factual side of maths. I just wish it could have been longer!”