South African educational institutions have joined forces to host virtual learning programmes this week, to mark International Day of Mathematics (IDM) – aka, Pi Day, which takes place on 14 March every year.

The proclamation of 14 March as IDM was adopted by the executive council of Unesco. The inaugural celebration of IDM took place in 2020.

IDM is a worldwide celebration, where all countries are invited to participate through activities for both students and the general public in schools, museums, libraries and other spaces.

The theme for 2022 is “Mathematics Unites”.

In light of this day, the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), together with the UJ Soweto Science Centre (SSC), will host an online programme on Saturday, 19 March.

It seeks to upskill students with mathematics skills, showcase South African mathematicians, and reveal how magnificent and monumental maths is, according to UJ.

“The Soweto Science Centre (SSC) is excited to partner on this event, as this highlights our contribution to celebrating the essential role mathematics plays in science, technology and innovation,” says Dr Lungile Sitole, UJ SSC director.

South African educational experts have for a long time been calling for significant interventions to improve the national pass rate, and prevent a ‘lost-generation’ of youngsters who are not sufficiently skilled in mathematics and science.

The local mathematics pass rate increased from 65.8% in 2020, to 69% in 2021, while the science results show a slight dip from 75.5% in 2020 to 74.7% in 2021, according to the 2021 National Senior Certificate Results.

As part of the joint UJ venture, the National Institute for Theoretical and Computational Sciences, NRF South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement, South African Mathematics Foundation, South African Mathematical Society and the Northcliff Rotary Club have organised online activities on mathematics and will run a YouTube series aimed at school pupils and undergraduate students.

“Our YouTube series initiative will deliver exciting and enticing content centred on mathematical research in South Africa and the world,” states Dr Cerene Rathilal, Pure Mathematician and lecturer at UJ.

“The ‘Meet a mathematician’ series will showcase South African mathematicians and their stories, and inspire students to pursue the study of mathematics. Students will have the opportunity to win UJ merchandise and e-vouchers by participating in quizzes and the photo challenge at our UJ IDM event.”

Students can participate in the photo challenge by submitting their photo with a mathematician to:

Last year, the International Mathematical Union launched the poster challenge, to which more than 2 100 schools and organisations responded, producing their own IDM poster to illustrate one facet of the theme of “Mathematics for a better world”.

“As the basis of all sciences, and the basis on which our financial system is centred, mathematics is a vital subject for all students. The improved understanding of maths and its usage will benefit not only the students but our society as a whole,” explains Robert Jacobzs, president of the Northcliff Rotary Club.

UJ invites all high school learners and undergraduates to participate on 19 March. To join, register here.

This article was first published on ITWeb on 15 March 2022.