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“Mathematics the language of the sciences” was the theme for the fifth annual National MathArt Competition organised by Nelson Mandela University’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre (GMMDC).

The way in which Mathematics communicates the sciences was the challenge that the GMMDC set to the Grade 7 to 12 learners for 2022. This was a tricky theme as they had to combine language, mathematics, and the sciences in a 2-dimensional artwork.

“The learners once again amazed us with the way in which they took up the challenge and replied with inspiring artworks”, said GMMDC project coordinator Carine Steyn.

The top entries receive gold, silver, and bronze awards. This year the awards were handed out at functions in the four provinces with the most entries. Our local Eastern Cape award ceremony was held at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum at St Georges Park on Friday, 2 September.

Dominic Gallant, Grade 12 learner from St Thomas Senior Secondary received a Silver award for his work “the connection of maths”. He said, “In my artwork I illustrated an African scientist working together with an Asian scientist. I decided that it would be a great example of how despite the language barrier of the different races we can still communicate using maths.”

The ceremony in the Western Cape was held in collaboration with the Western Cape Education Department as part of their Schools Art Festival Gala Event at Artscape in Cape Town, another handover took place at Penryn College in Mpumalanga and the final award ceremony was in Centurion, Gauteng at the Leriba Lodge, at Akademia University.

Background to the competition

In the past, maths and art were always seen as separate disciplines, worlds apart. But when they are studied together, it’s clear there are strong links between the two.

A great deal of creativity goes into mathematical breakthroughs, while plenty of mathematical precision goes into an artwork.

To encourage learners to bridge the gap between maths and art – and gain the skills they will need to navigate careers in the highly innovative and technologically creative Fourth Industrial Revolution – schools across South Africa, since 2018, have had the opportunity to participate in the MathArt competition.

The competition draws entries from every province – with many of the winning entries going on to be displayed overseas, through the international Bridges Organisation, a partner with GMMDC, and a supporter of the global shift towards STEAM education – an educational approach that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics to encourage critical thinking among learners.

“The MathArt project has gained a lot of support over the years from schools across the country,” said GMMDC project coordinator Carine Steyn. “And every year, we are blown away by the calibre of the entries.”

“One of our aims has also been to make the project as accessible as possible to all learners, especially those in under-resourced schools. All you need to enter the competition is a piece of a paper and a pencil.”

Learners submit a photograph of their artworks online in categories according to the grades. After the first two rounds of adjudication, the selected top entrants courier their artworks to GMMDC for final adjudication by a diverse panel of judges, including mathematicians, artists, teachers, lecturers, STEAM educators, architects, and designers. Where necessary, GMMDC assists learners to submit their artworks. 

“Through the competition, we can encourage learners and teachers to see maths differently. They are encouraged to see maths as not boring, but relevant and fun,” said Steyn.

From left, Dominic Gallant with his artwork “the connection of maths” that was awarded Silver. Ayanda Manyela and Wian van Niekerk from Grey Junior School, both finalists in the competition, enjoy seeing their artworks exhibited at the awards event at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum. Prof Werner Olivier, Director of the GMMDC, and Lindsay Potgieter from Erica Girls Primary that won the award for the Primary School with the Second Most entries in the Final round for the second consecutive year.

From left, GMMDC project coordinator Carine Steyn at the Western Cape Award ceremony held at Artscape in Cape Town. Western Cape Gold Awardee, AmorĂ© Snyman from Paarl Gimnasium. Mpumalanga Gold awardee – Mmesoma Orie from Penryn College in White River.  

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160