Change the world


COVID-19 may have put the brakes on many events, but it didn’t stop the Nelson Mandela University’s annual GMMDC (Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre) National Math-Art Competition from going ahead.

“Even before COVID, we had been planning to move the competition online – and were busy developing a website for submissions,” said GMMDC competition organiser Carine Steyn.  This decision would prove strategic, as the competition was launched just weeks before lockdown began, and schools closed.

Even the prizegiving, which took place in Cape Town on September 9, was largely attended via the Zoom platform.

The competition attracted 270 entries from Grade 7 to 12 pupils across the country, who developed artworks to fit under the broad theme of “My Universe”.

The learners had to look at the world around them and discover the maths.  To explain how their artwork was connected to maths and their universe, they had to answer two questions.

The winning artworks will be included in the 2021 online exhibition of the Finland-based Bridges Organisation, which runs global conferences and educational programmes promoting the connections between mathematics and art.

The competition fits into GMMDC’s broader vision of promoting awareness around STEAM education – Science, Technology, Education, Art and Maths – in South African classrooms, which is helping pupils to become both critical and creative thinkers across multiple disciplines.

“We are excited about the new digital format of the competition,” said GMMDC director Professor Werner Olivier.  “Our mission at GMMDC has always been to provide educational support over distance, using interactive apps and innovative learner-centered digital resources … This is helping to prepare learners for future careers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

To enter, the pupils submitted a photograph of their artwork online.  Each submission was checked, to determine its level of authenticity.  The top 80 entrants had to courier their physical art works to be authenticated for the final rounds of adjudication by a diverse panel of judges, including both local and international mathematicians, artists, teachers, lecturers, STEAM educators, architects and designers.

Although participation from under-resourced schools was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the novelty and potential of the Math-Art competition in schools has prominently positioned this project on the national education calendar in the coming years.

The winners were awarded trophies, certificates and attractive prizes including vouchers.

(Playlist: Math-Art Competition 2020)

FIRST PRIZE WINNERS …(Clockwise from top left) Grade 11 & 12: Perspective by Amé Lambrechts from Stellenberg High School, Cape Town; Grade 10: I am because we are by Erin Powers from Diocesan School for Girls, Makhanda; Grade 7 & 8: My Universe is the Only Unsolved Problem by Tamia McKenzie from Penrin College, Nelspruit and Grade 9: Leaning Against my Universe by Lisha Lovely from Waterford Kamhlaba UWC, Mbabane, Swaziland, and  Other Eastern Cape winners were Shanay Archery from Beaconhurst High School and Marené van Niekerk of Grens High School, both in East London.