media release

Math workshop aims to engage Aboriginal teens

October 16, 2012

Veselin Jungic, 778.822.3340,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


Four young mathematicians who are passionate about numbers, including two at Simon Fraser University, will be employing an age-old trick to engage Aboriginal high school students in learning math on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

They will play with numbers at the third annual Aboriginal Students in Math and Science Workshop at the IRMACS Centre from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This year’s free event, featuring games showcasing recreational math, 3D-geometry, number theory and game theory, is drawing 71 Aboriginal high school students from a variety of B.C. communities.

They are coming from Squamish, Tahsis, Salmon Arm, North Vancouver, Langley, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Pit Meadows, Powell River, West Vancouver, Burnaby, Port Alberni and Vancouver secondary schools.

“The main point of our workshop is to give participants one day of hands-on mathematics,” says Veselin Jungic, an SFU mathematician and workshop co-organizer. “The participants will solve puzzles, construct 3D-math objects, analyze puzzles and cut a cake.”

Jamie Mulholland, an SFU senior lecturer and math grad, will lead the participants in an exploration of paper models of the 15 puzzle, also known as the Gem or Mystic Square. It’s a sliding puzzle, consisting of a frame of numbered square tiles in random order with one tile missing. It took the world by storm in 1880.

Matt DeVos, an SFU assistant professor of math, will show the students how to use advanced math theories to divide a cake so that everyone gets a satisfactory portion.

Shawn Desaulniers, a Métis and an Okanagan College mathematician with a doctorate in math, will give a talk paying tribute to the late Martin Gardner (1914-2010). The American popular mathematics and science writer specialized in recreational mathematics.

Alejandro Erickson, an SFU BA and MSc grad, now a University of Victoria mathematician, will engage the students in GeoBurst, the construction of a 3D math object.

Randy Todd, a civil aviation safety inspector with Transport Canada and member of the Cree Nation, will talk to the participants about how he uses math and science daily in his work.

SFU’s mathematics department, Math Catcher Program, Office for Aboriginal Peoples and IRMACS Centre, and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences organize this annual event.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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"Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities"

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