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Mount St Joseph Catholic High Excels in Maths Olympiad

Published:Saturday | April 25, 2015 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey
Math and physics teacher at the Mount St Joseph Catholic High School, Paul Russell (from left), with top-place students in UWI’s recent math Olympiad: second-place winner Cruz Shirley; third-place winner Janalisa Waugh; and first-place student for the first round Joshua Givans.

Mandeville, Manchester:

Having only begun its operations eight months ago, the Mount St Joseph Catholic High School has already started to showcase the academic potency of its students with top placements in a recent maths Olympiad.

Out of a total of 200 students from different high schools across the island, the institution, after submitting seven participants, were able to secure first sectional placement and second and third overall placements.

According to math and physics teacher at the institution, Paul Russell, the maths Olympiad is a competition hosted by the Maths Department of the University of the West Indies and is designed to engage students in problem solving whilst helping them to garner more interest in the subject area.

"The levels of difficulty of the questions separate the students all across the island in terms of their natural aptitude for mathematics. It begins with a preliminary round where students get a take home test, a multiple choice test and every school around the island will submits a few participants. We submitted seven that later boiled down to five who progressed to the first round," stated Russell.

He added, "Overall, there were about 200 participants, which later went down to 62 in the semi-finals. From that 62 (semi finalists) our institution had three; Cruz Shirley, who placed second overall; Janalisa Waugh who placed third overall and Joshua Givans who was placed first overall in the island for the first round."

With the students operating at third form level in solving the non-traditional type maths questions, Russell believes this is the start of greater things to come.

"They have a natural aptitude for it, and how quickly they were able to catch on was amazing and just projecting. If they learn like this for the next five to seven years, they're going to do amazing things."

Sacrificing a regular lunch break for training sessions, the students who prepared for approximately four weeks believe the hard work did in fact pay off.

"I am happy, very happy that my hard work paid off. I practiced on a lot of past papers and I learned new concepts. I found the geometry questions challenging but I am planning on entering next year and winning," expressed Cruz Shirley, who placed second.

Joshua Givans, who placed first overall in the first round, admitted that he wasn't as prepared as he should have been but is happy nonetheless for his achievement

"I am planning on entering next year and my hope is to win because I'll be putting in the work. I was really happy that Campion College, the school I had as my first choice actually placed 4th. They were right up there with us and that is motivation for me"

As the only female among the lot, Janalisa Waugh, who placed third overall, said she didn't feel any pressure but thoroughly enjoyed the experience knowing she had the full support of her family and her school.

Waugh and Shirley, having been placed in the top three now have the opportunity to represent the country at an international competition in Mexico.

"It's tremendous because we are branded as a school of excellence under the banner of Campion College; we are trying to solidify ourselves as a force to be reckoned with especially in the areas of science and mathematics," stated Russell.

It is the hope of the institution to begin hosting internal maths competitions and starting the ground work for an accelerated maths programme that will see students sitting CSEC exams from as early as third form.