Entries pour in for maths-art competition

Pupils give NMU judges a big task with 600 entries to choose from

One of the submissions for the 2019 NMU art competition
One of the submissions for the 2019 NMU art competition

With 600 entries received from high schools across the country, judges of Nelson Mandela University’s second mathematical art competition have had a tough time choosing finalists.

Grade 8 to 12 pupils from every province poured heart and soul into their unique maths-inspired art – which included beautifully-coloured mandalas, sharp-angled high-rise buildings and plenty of animals and plants made up of geometrical shapes, angles, curves and precise patterns.

All the work is being exhibited at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum until June 21, and the winners will be announced at a prize-giving at the gallery on June 8.

“We received responses from everywhere – from small towns, big towns, private schools, government schools, the whole spectrum,” said competition coordinator Carine Steyn, from the university’s Govan Mbeki Mathematics Development Centre, which spearheads the competition.

“Through this competition, we want pupils to discover the links between maths and art, as this will form a major part of their future careers in this Fourth Industrial Revolution, where digital innovation is changing how we do things,” she said.

One of the submissions for the 2019 NMU art competition
One of the submissions for the 2019 NMU art competition

The theme for this year’s competition was “nature vs manmade”.

Pupils had the option of exploring the relationship between nature and maths, for instance, finding mathematically-precise patterns in flowers, animals or landscapes, or interpreting the maths-art theme in everyday objects or designs created by people, such as buildings, bridges, cars, cultural symbols, logos and decorations.

They could use any visual medium, including photography, drawing, painting, collage or mixed media, and each artwork needed to be accompanied by a written explanation, describing how it linked to maths.

“The children had to do research for this and we could see in the responses that they had learned new and interesting things about the maths-art connections – and about the subject they were exploring,” Steyn said.

“We received a lot of excellent entries . . . For the first round of judging, we looked at whether or not there was a strong maths connection in the artwork.

“The second [and final] round of judging looked at the art component.”

The maths-art link is part of a new global trend called Steam, the acronym standing for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics, which GMMDC is also promoting in South African classrooms.

The competition also fits into GMMDC’s techno-blended approach to promote and support the teaching and learning of maths and physical sciences in high schools across the country.

Partnering with GMMDC for the 2019 competition were the department of basic education (Eastern Cape), Umalusi (the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training), the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF), the Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education (CASME), the University of the Free State, Kutlwanong Centre for Maths, Science and Technology, the Independent Schools Association of South Africa (Isasa) and Curro Schools.

Winners of the competition will receive cash vouchers and book prizes.

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