A group of Mount Douglas Secondary School students gathered for cupcakes May 21 to celebrate the many group and individual math competition awards they took home this year. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

A group of Mount Douglas Secondary School students gathered for cupcakes May 21 to celebrate the many group and individual math competition awards they took home this year. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Saanich mathletes make their mark with record-setting awards haul

Mount Doug Secondary students take home best-ever results for an Island school

For years now, Mount Douglas Secondary School has fostered a community where math and the students who love it are celebrated. This year, with an unprecedented number of math competition wins, the hard work paid off.

The school placed first among Island schools for Grades 9, 10 and 11 in the University of Waterloo national competition and first overall on the Island in the Canadian Open Mathematics Competition. In the provincial math challengers competition, the Grade 10 team captured top spot and the Grade 9 team snagged first on the Island.

Individually, Raphael Lee placed first on the Island and seventh in B.C. for Grade 9s and Samuel Li placed first in B.C. for Grade 10s.

Mount Doug math teacher Neal Johnson said the overall results were the best ever by an Island school.

Math teacher Neal Johnson presents Samuel Li with a medal for his first place provincial win. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

“Some of these students’ abilities are just tremendous,” Johnson said with pride. He’s been teaching within the math challenge program since 1996, with about 15 of his most recent years at Mount Doug. During that time, he’s seen a definite increase in the number of interested students.

“It’s become a massive math community now all throughout Gordon Head,” he said.

The way Johnson has it set up, Grade 11 and 12 students help coach Grade 9s and 10s. Two years ago they expanded that mentorship further, offering coaching to students at nearby middle schools.

Justin Siu, a Grade 12 math coach, said he didn’t think there would be much interest when they started, but the first time they showed up at Arbutus Middle School, about 40 students attended. They had to move from the drama room into the cafeteria.

Math teacher Neal Johnson presents Raphael Lee with a medal for winning first place on Vancouver Island for Grade 9 students in the Math Challengers provincial competition. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

“You always get kids coming up at the end of the day saying, ‘thank you so much for helping’,” Siu said. “It’s very gratifying the amount of students who come out and the things they gain from it.”

Fellow student math coach Rafael Edora agreed, saying what makes math enjoyable is the problem-solving aspect of it.

“Teaching people to find those solutions gives a lot of that same satisfaction,” he said.

Both Siu and Edora said when they were in Grade 9, the group had so few members they would have to go class to class near competition time to try and convince enough people to join their team. This year, they had too many.

“They have a community of peers,” Johnson said. “People who actually really enjoy mathematics.”


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