RIYADH: About 31,000 students have taken part in the first phase of the Mawhiba Kangaroo Maths Competition 2022 in Saudi Arabia, which concludes next week on March 21.
The final round of the competition, organized by the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, will take place virtually on March 25 and 26.
Badr Al-Majrathi, manager of the competitions department at Mawhiba, said: “With its global momentum, Mawhiba opens the door to participation for all students in the Kingdom, and aims to encourage students to deepen and master their knowledge of mathematics, thus developing their mathematics skills and ability to solve mathematical problems.”
He told Arab News that the competition helps to promote passion for mathematics among students, assist them in applying mathematics to life activities, and reinforce the importance of a mathematical education.
Al-Majrathi said that Kangaroo competition is part of Mawhiba’s event program to discover and develop the performance of talented people. “The quality of the questions included in the competition are of a special nature in terms of linking mathematics to various life activities,” he added.
Since its inception in the Kingdom in 2016, the competition has attracted about 190,000 students. This year, the competition saw 5,638 students hailing from the Eastern Province, which provided the most participants out of any of the Kingdom’s regions.
Hashem Al-Shaikhy, a professor of mathematics at King Faisal University, said that the Kangaroo competition “is of real importance, as it is a wonderful and distinguished competition in mathematics.
“The questions of the competition require mathematical knowledge, of course, but it requires more high mathematical thinking skills, as its questions are characterized by difficulty, particularly those with higher grades.”
He added: “Given the high level of questions on the one hand, and their importance and role in developing students’ mathematical thinking and thinking skills in general on the other hand, we support students participating in this competition, particularly those who show signs of excellence in mathematics.
Al-Shaikhy, who is also an expert in mathematics competitions in the Middle East, added: “Given the low average score in the international Kangaroo tests, which is due to the level of its difficult questions, and in order not to frustrate students when they get low scores in them, it is very important for students to understand that they will get many benefits from taking exams at such a high level and that any score they get indicates a great distinction, which should be rewarded.”
Saleh Al-Mofadhali, a mathematics teacher, urged schools and mathematics teachers in particular to organize training courses for students before letting them take part in maths competitions. Courses should help students solve exercises, develop arithmetic skills and reach solutions to mathematical problems through critical thinking, he added.
Al-Mofadhali, who has spent about 20 years teaching mathematics to students of various ages, stressed the importance of the mathematics competition in developing students’ thinking skills, discovering talented people, working to develop talents and directing them towards specializations that fit their skills.
He said that the role of the school and the math teacher is centered on “working together to overcome the difficulties and fear of mathematics among students,” so as to make mathematics popular with students through competitions and linking mathematics lessons with sports and other games.
He warned that schools should avoid “making students rigid,” adding: “Learning math should not be restricted to homework and doing explanations on the blackboard.”
Al-Mofadhali said that organizing competitions motivates students to raise their skills and pay attention to mathematics, because of its importance in the development of sciences and other knowledge.
“It is critical to thoroughly train the student in order to memorize the multiplication table, in addition to training the student to solve problems that focus on higher-order thinking skills and enhancing the student’s self-confidence,” he added.
Bandar Mamdouh, a member of the Student Association for Mathematical Sciences, also stressed the importance of boosting students’ self-esteem, and how mathematics competition and other educational competitions help toward that goal by “increasing the student’s level of knowledge through training and practice.”
He said scientific competitions create a sense of competition among school communities, and that “school administrations, teachers and parents work together to motivate students, and provide them with assistance to enter the competition and do their best to excel.”
Mamdouh added that scientific competitions have a positive impact on the educational system because they inspire students to learn, create and innovate.