Funday Times

From Sri Lanka to Kazakhstan

From our Kid Reporter, Kanchana Ranasinghe (14 years), Royal College, Kid Reporter C – 02.

"The foundation for everything in this world is Mathematics," said the famous philosopher, Socrates. Nevertheless, Maths is not a favourite subject for most people. It is a word, which brings memories of boredom and irritation to many.

However for the hundreds of students attending the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) from more than a hundred countries around the world, this is not so. They devote months practising hard and getting ready for this great event, which is a recognized competition paving the path for mathematically gifted young students to display their skills and talents.

Mr. Chanakya Wijeratne

The first ever IMO was held in Romania in 1959. However, Sri Lanka attended this for the first time in 1995, and has participated every year (since then) except in 1997.

Under many problems including improper financial support and inadequate assistance and publicity, our Sri Lankan participants have displayed their talent to a great extent, having successfully won six bronze medals and ten honourable mentions over the last seven years.

Behind all this work is one great mathematician who has shown much dedication towards the upliftment of mathematics in our country. He is non-other than the CEO of The Sri Lanka Mathematic Olympiad Foundation and former Head of the Mathematics Department of University of Colombo, Mr. Chanakya Wijeratne.

Let us have a look at his views.

Q: What is your opinion about the performance of young Sri Lankan students in mathematics
competitions like IMO?

A: Although we have made many achievements, many other Asian countries are well ahead of us. I think our students have a potential within them, but there are certain flaws.

From left to right: Isuru Fernanado (St. Sebastians College, Moratuwa), Nuwan Pallewela (Maliyadeva College, Kurunegala), Ruvini Guruge (Musaeus College), Chanakya Wijeratne (Leader), Nipuna Samarasekera (Ananda College), Rasiru Rangika (Rajapakse College, Weeraketiya), Madura Pankaja (Rahula College, Matara)

Over the last few years I have analysed the weaknesses of our students at the IMO level.

Our students are mathematically talented. But they do not have opportunities to develop their skills. Also, IMO topics are in general not included in our secondary school curriculum.

However, our students have the ability to develop their mathematical thinking a lot by solving IMO problems.

Q: What sort of assistance do you receive for this event? Who finances all this?

A: Well, we get much help from my colleagues at the SLMO foundation and from many of my past
students. However, we do not usually have much funding. The students often have to cover their travelling costs by themselves when going to the country where the competition is held.

Q: May I know about your plans for the IMO this year?

A : Of course. The IMO 2010 will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, and we have already held three
competitions throughout the country including Jaffna, Trincomalee and eight other cities to choose the best students. Finally we selected six students to represent our country, and are giving them a tough training to be able to succeed at the competition.

Q: I heard about another international mathematics competition. Could you tell us about that as well?

A: Yes, this year Korea is hosting the International Mathematics Competition (IMC) and we have been invited for the first time. We have prepared to send a team of eight students.

This event is for school children below 16 years, and we somehow hope to excel at this competition as well.

Thanks a lot Sir, for sharing your ideas with us. We greatly appreciate your dedication and effort towards developing mathematical thinking within the society and working towards a valuable goal.

Let us all hope our students return with success and excellent performance at both these events and wish them good luck.

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