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  OAM for Bruce Henry in Queen's Birthday Honours List

Posted Monday 09 June 2008

[Bruce Henry]

Mathematics Challenge for Young Australians founder Bruce Henry, also Victorian Director of the Australian Mathematics Competition, has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours list announced today.

This comes in addition to him being one of the three international winners of the WFNMC Paul Erdös Award for 2008, which will be presented to him in Monterrey, Mexico, on 07 July. (For further details of this award, restricted by quota to 3 winners every two years, including citations, click here.)

Bruce was born in Portland, Victoria, where he completed his schooling, before attending Melbourne University to complete a BSc majoring in chemistry and a DipEd. He then taught for seven years in Victorian secondary schools while studying mathematics part-time.

In 1968 Bruce started lecturing in mathematics at the then Secondary Teachers College, now part of the University of Melbourne. He continued part-time studies in mathematics, completing an MA (prelim) and started to lecture in Mathematics Education in 1972. In 1973 he accepted a position as Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education at Monash Teachers College, soon to become Rusden State College and later part of Deakin University. In 1979 he completed an MScEd at the University of Western Australia.

In the 1970s Bruce was involved with two groups of inspired and enthusiastic teachers of mathematics, the Study Group for Mathematics Learning and the Education Department consultants, which together were instrumental in moving Victoria to near the fore-front of mathematics education internationally. At Rusden, he also started work on the Rusden Activity Mathematics Project (RAMP), a series of activities for students in Years 7 and 8 which concentrated on students being involved in learning through activities, particularly with suitable concrete materials. RAMP became the start of a long career in writing mathematics materials. He has now written over 40 books for teachers and students.

During this time Bruce taught tertiary level mathematics as well as education at Rusden and found great benefit in knowing most of his education students from earlier classes in mathematics. Bruce retired from Deakin University in 1993 but still has many ex-students teaching in schools across the state.

Since 1993, Bruce has taught at a number of private schools in Melbourne, filling in when a teacher has been on leave for a term. He has particularly enjoyed this when teaching years 7 and 8.

Bruce has been active in the examination of Year 12 students in Victoria for about forty years and is still very involved in the setting and assessing of VCE mathematics examinations.

Bruce met Peter O'Halloran, Executive Director of what is now known as the Australian Mathematics Trust, in 1978 and became the Victorian State Director of the Australian Mathematics Competition, a position he still holds. He has always seen the Competition as making an important contribution to the motivation of secondary mathematics students, not just the best, but those who struggle to achieve their best. His involvement with the Competition and the Australian Mathematics Trust has enabled him to further contribute to the mathematics education of students throughout the nation and to meet many interesting people with different backgrounds who all have the same motivation.

In 1990, Bruce and Peter O'Halloran devised the Mathematics Challenge for Young Australians. They had advice from a number of people, but a famous walk around Black Mountain one sunny Saturday sealed the details: it was unheard of to give students a set of problems to solve over a three-week period, but that is what they did! They started with one paper (Years 7 to 10) but quickly added a Junior paper to cover Years 7 and 8, and later a Primary paper for the upper Primary School years. following demand from teachers.

Bruce was Chairman of the Problems Committee and also Director of the Mathematics Challenge for Young Australians until 2006. He remains a member of the Challenge Problems Committee.

An Enrichment component of the Challenge was also founded, providing course work to enable students to extend their mathematics knowledge and problem solving skills well beyond their classroom experience. This series was expanded from a single book to six over the years, including for primary students, during which time Bruce found himself writing large slabs of four of the new ones as well as editing all of them. This series has become an important part of the Challenge program.

Through the Challenge with its Challenge and Enrichment phases and capped with a national Olympiad for students up to Year 10, Bruce and his team have added another dimension to the mathematics education of thousands of children in years 5 to 10. Not only has it provided good problem solving activities for the better-than-average students, but it has provided a real challenge for the best students, so that we now have a wide base of very able students. These students will go on to provide the nation with excellent mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers. They can participate in other enrichment activities ensuring there is an excellent group of students from which to select Olympiad teams, so that Australia can be confident of continuing success in this area.

Bruce still presents regularly at conferences on a variety of topics and is still involved in creating questions for a number of different tests and competitions.

[Bruce Henry]

He was honoured with the Australian Mathematics Trust's BH Neumann Award in 1992. He is pictured above at Government House Melbourne with Professor Neumann (left) and the Governor of Victoria, the Hon. Richard McGarvie QC (centre), after the presentation. He was also made a life member of the Mathematical Association of Victoria in 2005. As noted above, in 2007 Bruce was announced as a winner of the Paul Erdös Award by the World Federation of National Mathematics Competitions.

Bruce's interests besides mathematics include bush-walking, tennis, bridge and cryptic crosswords. In the middle of a crowded career, his wife Helen and he have had six children, including twins. Five of these are married and four of them are parents. They have nine grandchildren, the eldest 15 and the youngest only arriving in October 2007; they include twins. Bruce turned 70 in 2007 and intends to continue what he enjoys for a long time yet.

Peter Taylor
09 June 2008


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