2011 BH Neumann Awards

The BH Neumann winners for 2011 are (in alphabetical order), Jane Breidahl of Victoria, Gary Carter of Queensland and Simon L Chua of the Philippines. Brief citations for each follows.

Jane Breidahl

Jane Breidahl received a BH Neumann Award at the Boathouse Restaurant, Canberra, on Saturday 21 May 2011.

[Jane Breidahl]

Jane receives the award from AMT Executive Director Professor Peter Taylor.

CITATION

Jane’s own story, as published in the AMT magazine The Globe, serves as a citation.

I was born in Geelong in 1952 and am pretty much your average baby boomer. With my two younger sisters, I rode my bike to the local State School where I received an excellent education in spite of the huge classes that were typical of the day.

Although I won the art competition in prep for my collage entitled What I want to be when I grow up (a marching girl), it was in Grade 6 that I was sure I’d be a maths teacher. I remember my first taste of algebra as though it was yesterday. My Grade 6 teacher, Mr Clarke, posed a simple problem about perimeter. He had me at x and y.

After graduating dux of the school, I won a scholarship to attend Morongo, a local private girls’ school, where I built on the solid grounding from primary school.

In Year 7, I was a nuisance. Rapidly finishing the ‘left hand side’, I needed to be productively occupied. Finally, an astute teacher set me the task of helping my classmates with their maths and this was sheer heaven. My teacher training had begun.

The secondary years were memorable largely because of the outstanding teachers. Although there was little in the way of maths enrichment in those days, in Year 12 I won a problem-solving competition set by the Mathematical Association of Victoria (MAV). Margaret Thom inspired me to continue with my ambition to teach maths when she taught me (and only three others) Pure Maths, and Calculus and Applied Maths in Year 12.

In 1971, I was accepted into my first choice of Science Education, a new course at Melbourne University. I met Bruce Henry in my first year. As my Pure Maths tutor, he joined the growing list of inspirational teachers who’ve shaped and nurtured my passion for mathematics. Bruce and I have remained in touch since then, meeting up at workshops, conferences and the like.

The science education degree was unique in that we were placed in schools doing teaching rounds in our 2nd, 3rd and 4th years. It was in my 4th year that I met the late Vivienne Willis, who took me under her wing. Though invited to remain at Strathcona, I was bonded to the education department on a studentship. One of the (many) advantages of having married my husband at the beginning of that 4th year was that I was consequently only bonded to the education department for one year, not three. I couldn’t wait to teach and off I went to Donvale High School to teach maths and junior science.

At Donvale High School I created a ‘maths cupboard’, wrote my first set of problems on cards and sat outside the woodwork room making a class set of geoboards. All that time I’d spent in Dad’s workshop as a child paid off in my early days as a maths teacher.

It was in the 1970s that I became an avid fan of the SGML crew (Charles Lovitt comes to mind) and followed their workshops all over Melbourne in spite of my tragic lack of a sense of direction. Many of the SGML ideas became RIME lessons, which I found brilliant and motivating. I belonged to the Eastern branch of the MAV and was active in helping with their games days.

After two years living in East Burwood, we decided to build our first house on the Mornington Peninsula. At Hastings High School, the teachers often commented on the amount of equipment I took to class. I made class sets of scissors, glue, cardboard etc. and had a veritable little ‘Officeworks’ on hand.

After a year, I secured a position at Toorak College, Mount Eliza, and it was there that I felt I had found my true home. I worked with an amazing principal who just ‘got me’. A maths teacher herself, Marjorie Williams encouraged me to put all my enthusiasm into practice. 1978 was the first year of the Australian Mathematics Competition (AMC) and I introduced it to the school. I maintained a very keen interest in it over the years that followed so it’s ironic that I’ve ended up writing problems for the last 10 years, and curious that it was Bruce Henry who invited me to join the committee.

At the end of 1978 our first son was born, closely followed by a second. The seven years that I spent at home as a full-time mum were years I wouldn’t trade for anything. I did, however do a little tutoring in the evenings. I also managed to do a little work for the MAV from home.

In 1986, I returned to Toorak College and basically picked up from where I’d left off. After attending a workshop outlining a new program called Family Maths (FAMPA) I went to the principal bursting with the usual enthusiasm. She said, ‘Go for it.’ So began about 15 years (over two schools) of running the Family Maths Program (and later Family Science), again with the support of wonderful teachers and, in the early days, parents.

The Melbourne University Maths Competition was another challenge I put to able students. At this time I was a member of the Peninsula branch of the MAV and was active in running games days at Toorak College. I made the games from scratch – always keen to do a bit of ‘cut and paste’. Maybe that prep grade art prize did augur well for the future! It was at Toorak College that I first encountered Tournament of Minds – a superb program that encouraged teamwork and innovative thinking. The maths/engineering problem was always a favourite with my students and at one stage I was coordinating seven teams!

The fact that I have a degree in mathematics, coupled with the fact that I see the world with a childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm (my nickname at Toorak was Pollyanna) meant that I found myself ideally suited to young, bright students. So began my gradual journey into gifted education. I attended every workshop on gifted education on offer as well as every maths conference for many years. From every one I managed to bring back a new idea for a lesson, a project or a discussion. I always sought out sessions run by Marj Horne or Andy Edwards since I knew they’d be immediately successful and practical.

After 10 years at Toorak College, I moved to Woodleigh School where I furthered my journey into gifted education and enrichment of every kind. I continued to run the Maths Challenge for Young Australians and Family Maths and continued to encourage students to take part in the AMC. I also coordinated Tournament of Minds, Future Problem Solving and the Maths Talent Quest, and in my spare time, introduced Marine Science to the curriculum!

I was very fortunate to have often been left to my own devices and before long I wrote and taught the entire maths acceleration program (Years 7, 8 and 9). I firmly believe that broadening their exposure to mathematics can facilitate the acceleration of bright kids, though it sounds contradictory and many would disagree. Without the constraints of a textbook and a rigorous syllabus, amazing things can be achieved. Add to this the fact that small groups of like-minded kids will share ideas in an unthreatening environment.

Instilling a love of maths in my students was always my aim. Often I’d unashamedly tell my class that I was having a ball and wasn’t fussed whether they were – but they always were! I figure that if a student is having fun, he or she will stay on task and a student on task is learning. The best thing about working with the more able students was being able to explore one problem five different ways rather than do five of the ‘same’ problem. Teaching Pythagoras’ Theorem to a group of Year 8 students in 50 minutes using paper and scissors while letting them develop the algebraic formula was one of many memorable experiences, and another was making a 3,4,5 triangle with a length of rope (but no traditional measuring device) and checking the right angle with a giant set square.

We wrote stories, had discussions, the students gave their solutions to the class and we learned about all kinds of miscellany. We concentrated on sharing ideas verbally rather than on writing anything down. I’d keep track of their progress on the board. At the end of a typical Year 7 class, I’d summarise the lesson for the students to read the next time. They could see for themselves how their ideas bounced off each other and how they developed complicated mathematics by sharing. They loved to see their names in print! The students are the other people I should credit for my ongoing passion for maths. The students would create the maths if I created the opportunity.

To me, maths is a ‘way of thinking’ and a ‘search for pattern’. I often explained to students that the ‘steps aren’t enough. It’s a heartbeat’. Anyone who’s seen the movie Dirty Dancing will know where I’m coming from. In a co-ed class it was funny to see the different response.

I have been a second and third stage moderator for the Australian Maths Challenge for Young Australians and have been a member of the Secondary Problems Committee for the AMC since 2001.

I call myself a ‘mathematician’ because I’d rather do maths than anything else. I look forward to writing problems, working on the solutions and discussing them every year in Canberra. Although I felt completely overwhelmed at my first meeting, I now feel part of a big family.

I’m now blissfully retired and my interests are line dancing, scuba diving, aerobics, patchwork and quilting, knitting, volunteer work, reading, cryptic crosswords, Sudoku (naturally) and tutoring maths. Harry and I are also making our way around the world with much covered already but so much more to go. Courtesy of our firstborn, Peter, we have ‘three under three (includes twins)’ grandchildren living in New Zealand.

[Jane Breidahl]

Husband Harry, Jane, Peter Taylor and Warren Atkins.

[Jane Breidahl]

Former BH Neumann winners present at the function, from left Peter Taylor, Martin Ward, Anne Hastings, Bob Thompson, Warren Atkins, Peter Brown, Bob Bryce, Howard Reeves and John Carty.

Gary Carter

Dr Gary Carter, of Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, was presented with a BH Neumann Award at the Quay West Hotel, Brisbane, on Friday 12 August, 2011.

[BHN Gary Carter]

Receiving his award, Gary is with Peter Taylor, AMT Executive Director.

Citation

Gary was born in Mackay where both his parents were school teachers. As such they were posted in various places and Gary attended four different primary schools, ending at Manly State School where his father was head teacher, and going on to Wynnum State High School.

In primary school he says mathematics, or as it was arithmetic, was not his strong suit, preferring English and Social Studies. However once he was exposed to algebra and geometry there was a rather dramatic change in priorities and Gary became engrossed in simplifying, solving, rationalising and proving and then he was hooked.

For some reason though, when he obtained a scholarship to study at the University of Queensland, he assumed he would become an industrial chemist. Despite passing the mathematics units, chemistry did not meet his expectations and he decided to switch to a teacher training course.

His first appointment was at Tambo, a town of approximately 500 people, between Charleville and Barcaldine, at a school with just 29 students in years 8 to 10. Gary stayed in this pleasant country atmosphere for two years until transferred to Cleveland State High School in 1975, where there were up to 1500 students.

Gary spent 17 years there teaching mathematics and science and while there commenced tertiary study at the University of Queensland, where this had become possible, and he was able to focus on mathematics.

He first completed a Bachelor of Science and then enrolled in a Masters by coursework, which he completed in 1983, with Neil Williams as one of his lecturers.

He then successfully applied for a position at the Queensland Institute of Technology, where he was until recent retirement.

Gary completed a PhD in Cryptology in 2000 and went on to supervise other students in the subject.

He started his involvement with AMOC activities in 1997 when Neil Williams invited him to mark some work of Queensland students in the program, and when Neil retired in 2000 Gary took over the work as Queensland State Director.

Gary has recently passed on this job to Victor Scharaschkin, after more than 10 years’ service.

During the time I have worked with Gary his commitment and dedication to teaching young talented students has been significant. Together with this nothing has been too difficult for him. He has always pitched in to help Graham Meiklejohn with Australian Mathematics Competition work, such as helping with the award ceremony at Kelvin Grove, arranging guest speakers, etc, and helping the Trust generally, for example by freely helping run our stands at QAMT Conferences, even if this meant absence from home.

So Gary, whereas I wish to thank you for this, it doesn’t take away from the fact that you have earned this award and to be listed with a number of other Queenslanders, several of whom are here tonight, in the honour roll.

Congratulations!

Peter Taylor
Friday 12 August 2011

[BHN Gary Carter]

Gary with family, from left nephews Phillip and Lachlan, wife Alina, Peter Taylor and brother Trevor.

Dr Simon L Chua

Dr Simon L Chua, of the Philippines, was presented with a BH Neumann Award at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Alice Springs, on Saturday 02 July, 2011.

Simon is principal of a school in Zamboanga, Mindanao, southern Philippines. Fifteen years ago he founded the Mathematics Trainers Guild there. This is an organisation similar to AMT and it has flourished. For 10 years Simon has been the AMC Director for the Philippines and entries have grown each year. Simon also promotes a number of other good quality events from other countries and is co-director of the World Youth Olympiad, which is for students up to Year 9. He is also a holder of the Paul Erdös Award from the WFNMC.

[BHN Simon Chua]

Receiving his award, Simon is with Peter Taylor (left) and Warren Atkins (right).

[BHN Simon Chua]

Simon with colleagues at the presentation, from left: Peter Taylor (Executive Director), Chi-keung Wan (Hong Kong), Saiful Azmi Hj Awg Husain (Brunei Darussalam), Tomo Hereniko (Fiji), Lim Chong Keang (Malaysia), Ridwan Saputra (Indonesia).

Later Manila Presentation

[AMC Medallists BHN Simon Chua]

Professor Taylor re-presents the BH Neumann Award to Dr Simon L Chua for his contribution to the enrichment of mathematics learning in the Philippines, at a function in Manila on Monday 31 October 2011.