A perennial problem for any software company is finding enough quality software developers. j5 Software South Africa is no exception, and while we’re lucky in the quality of South African universities, those same Universities have their own problems in getting sufficient quality students for Computer Science and Software Engineering courses, or indeed for any STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses. The root of all these problems lie in the appallingly poor state of South African Mathematics education at the school level. The World Economic Forum ranks South Africa last, globally, in the quality of mathematics and science education. Any efforts to improve such a state should be supported, not just from the self-interested view of eventually getting more quality programmers to work at j5 Software South Africa, but also because j5 Software South Africa is a company committed to improving the community and country they live and work in, and making lives better for everyone. As such, j5 Software South Africa support the work of people who make a positive contribution to bettering Maths education in South Africa. j5 Software South Africa have been involved in the UCT Mathematics Competition and have also become involved with Numeric Math Camp for the last two years.
Numeric is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works on the problem in two main fronts – by providing funding and training for Maths educators, and by organizing after-school programs of extra Maths education in disadvantaged communities in the Western Cape and Gauteng. The after-school learning is in the form of facilitated online training through Khan Academy. Numeric does sterling work and in just 5 years have grown to support over 1000 learners a year, mostly grades 7-9.
As part of their efforts for learners, Numeric hosts a Math Camp holiday program for a select group of their learners on UCT campus (now Wits too), where the students attend lectures and workshops, visit the Science Center in Observatory, and have a bit of fun too. j5 Software South Africa has gotten involved by running short workshops which aim to show the children how Mathematics is useful in the life of a computer programmer, and how important it is to work at Maths if one wants to progress onto any STEM field. This year, j5 Software South Africa attended during the morning of the 1st of July, with 5 volunteers – Cath Forsyth, Sarah Musto, Stephen Murcott, Yannick Butorano and Leen Remmelzwaal. Cath gave the opening keynote speech, then the 150 kids were split into 4 teams to do the workshops, with teams moving from one fun activity to the next.
The activities were all computer-related Maths games, sourced from the CS Unplugged website – Stephen instructed the teams in the basics of binary numbers, Sarah showed them how numbers can be used to encode images, Yannick showed them how searching algorithms can be used to blow up battleships, and Leen got them to form human sorting networks. The kids all had fun, and also hopefully learned that Maths can be both exciting and useful. After everyone had done all the activities, Leen closed off with a Q&A session.
It was a great opportunity for j5 Software South Africa to engage with the future of our country – hopefully passing on some love of Maths to aspiring programmers and engineers. j5 Software South Africa would like to thank Numeric for giving the time and space to engage with their students and help out their much-needed efforts.
A video of the Maths camp can be seen here.