Mathematics and Statistics

2019 has been a year of new beginnings, with many starting with ‘A’. We welcomed Mr A. Barlow, Mr A. Everett, and Miss A. Wilson to the Columba College Mathematics and Statistics Department.

Mr Barlow taught a wide range of year levels from Year 8 Mathematics up to Year 13 Statistics. Mr Everett worked across the Science and Mathematics departments where he taught Year 9 and 10 Mathematics, and a range of Science and Chemistry classes. Miss Wilson commenced her first year of teaching and taught classes from Year 7 up to Year 11. All new staff members have been a great addition to the Mathematics and Statistics team.

Once again, Columba College students have succeeded to a high level in national and international Mathematics competitions, with many gaining top 100 or 200 places out of thousands of competitors. These competitions have included the University of Otago Junior Mathematics Competition, Problem Challenge, O’Mathalon, the Casio Victoria University Mathematics Competition, and the Australian Mathematics competition.

At the end of 2019 we bid farewell to Mr N. Mains and thanked him for his many years of service to the Department. We wish him all the best and an exciting, fun-filled retirement.

Mathematics Learning is facing challenges nationally and globally.

(Source: New Zealand Association for Research in Education, and Statistics Learning Centre, paraphrased)

Mathematical anxiety is on the rise in New Zealand and globally. When asked to describe Mathematics with a four-letter word most people would not choose the word Love. Often the chosen word has a negative connotation, such as Hard, Hate, Fear, or sometimes something a little more colourful.

It was found that Mathematical test anxiety and learning anxiety was highest in female single-sex schools. At Columba College we are proud of how many students choose to continue with Mathematics all the way to the end of Year 13. The students don’t shy away from the challenge and, for some, this means facing their fears. However, there are still many areas to improve upon.

One area found to make a big difference on a student’s view of Mathematics is perseverance. The biggest difference between people who succeed at maths and those who don’t is what they do when they get something wrong. When successful mathematicians complete a problem and get the answer wrong, they do not see it as a personal failure, but try again. However, people who are less secure in their ability to do maths get upset at each wrong answer, and give up easily so they can avoid further failure. They seem to take mistakes personally. Supporting and encouraging students to take a risk, make mistakes, and persevere is a key challenge for Mathematics today.

“Mathematics is like a childhood disease. The younger you get it, the better.”

Arnold Sommerfeld (pioneered developments in atomic and quantum physics)

We look forward to 2020 and the new challenges and successes that await. Mathematics is certainly in good heart at Columba College.

Mr J. Chambers

HOD Mathematics and Statistics