Mathematics Awards - May 29th 2022
It all adds up at the Mathematics Awards in Cork
A perpetual cup was brought by car from Maynooth, winners’ plaques arrived by train and bicycle from Dublin, posters and diplomas were being printed in Cork and a young piano performer was stepping out of a flight from London, while one hundred people of all ages from across the country were headed to the Aula Maxima of the University College Cork on May 29th.
This is the IMT Mathematics Awards Ceremony, a unique celebration with prizes for both teachers and students. Finally together in an event where the video-conferencing will be kept to the minimum, a diverse community of school students, parents, teachers, academics and invited guests could share their dreams, motivate and inspire each other.
It is amazing how rare such meetings of minds happen in our society. About maths, people are sharply divided between “I hate it” and “I love it” - the latter, usually the sign of an amazing teacher at work. Even within the mathematics community, school mathematics and university mathematics sometimes look like they might as well be two different planets – each community jealously guarding their realm. Efforts to bridge the gap between the two curricula are coming slowly. And yet, the role of mathematics in society is more like that of water in nature: From the quick fresh springs of school teaching to the high clouds of abstraction in university, there rains the nourishing flow of technological innovation that benefits us all. Vertical integration is the key.
Enters the Irish Mathematical Trust (IMT): it is a large group of mathematicians determined to engage with all stakeholders of mathematics. They’ve been running national competitions like the Irish Mathematical Olympiad for 35 years now, and helped train the team representing Ireland at the International Mathematical (IMO) and its younger sister the European Girls Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO). More recently 5 years ago they started the Award for Irish Teachers of Mathematics.
The 2022 Awards Ceremony in Aula Maxima was opened by Professor Sarah Culloty, the head of the College of SEFS in UCC. Our own Dr. Kevin Hayes and Dr. Tom Carroll gave warm speeches in which the audience learned much more about UCC than they had ever known, got an authentic feel for what it means to be a mathematician, and learned the importance of cherishing and helping the subject grow.
The 2022 winner of the €10,000 teacher award is Ivan Cliffe, is a UCC graduate who is working on a fixed term contract in Ardscoil na Mara, Tramore, Co. Waterford, since 2017.
The runner-ups were Danielle O’Leary, Head of Maths Department and Maths teacher at Mercy Secondary School, Inchicore, Dublin 8, and William Leahy, teacher of mathematics, Carrigaline Community School, Waterpark Road, Carrigaline, Co, Cork. Also being honoured at the ceremony are finalists Elaine Hickey and Fiona O’Regan.
The ceremony went on to honour the student laureates of the Irish Mathematical Olympiad. Of these, the team to represent Ireland at the at the International Mathematical Olympiad Olympiad – the world annual championship of school maths - will be made of:
Fionn Kimber O’Shea, 4th year, Christian Brothers College, Cork: Team captain
Taiga Murray, 6th year, St Benildus College, Kilmacud, Dublin 14
James Chen, 5th year, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
Xiang Lian, 5th year, The Teresian School, Donnybrook, Dublin 4
Emily Wolfe, 5th year, Bruce College, St. Patrick’s Hill, Cork
Rory Moore, 6th year, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
Tianci Yan, 2nd year, Templeogue College C.S.Sp, Templeogue, Dublin 6W, also came in 3rd place and will become eligible to participate in IMO next year.
Performing at the ceremony was Antonia Huang, a Master’s student at the Guildhall School of Music in London and winner of multiple awards music awards, as well as an old friend who has often visited Cork for her European and International Mathematics Olympiad training.
As a delightful surprise for students and teachers alike, the ceremony ended with the performance of our own band of mathematicians Martin Kilian and Kieran Mulchrone and their guest singer Finbarr O’Flaherty.
This award ceremony was the culmination of hundreds of volunteer hours and outside-school work by all involved, of which the awards that follow show just the tip of the iceberg. This shows there is true love for the subject that unites a community as diverse and remarkable as one would wish for.
The Mary Vesey Fund at The Community Foundation for Ireland
The awards are sponsored by the Mary Vesey Fund at The Community Foundation for Ireland. The donor Frank Kenny has supported the Award on the basis of a lifelong interest in mathematics and a belief in the need to recognise excellence in teaching.
The Community Foundation for Ireland is one of the largest philanthropic organisations in Ireland. The organisation was established in 2000 with the support of Government and the business sector. From an initial investment of €1m in 2000 and through the support of families, individuals, corporates and other trusts and foundations, a perpetual fund of over €45m has been grown. Cumulative grant-making now exceeds €39million. In 2017 alone, over €6.5 million in grants was distributed, the highest amount we have given out in a single year.
Through the generosity of its donors, The Community Foundation for Ireland continued to support the community and voluntary sector and provided a diverse range of grants in support of communities throughout Ireland and overseas.
Susquehanna International Group - SIG
Following on from its support of Junior Mathematics Enrichment classes in UCD, Susquehanna International Group (SIG) is looking forward to sponsoring the Irish team at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Norway, July 2022 and into the 2022/2023 season.
IMO 2022 Here is more about the IMO IMOF | International Mathematical Olympiad Foundation
Background Information: The Award for Irish Teachers of Mathematics
The Award for Irish Teachers of Mathematics mirrors a number of similar initiatives in other countries, in particular the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ Teachers Prize, the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and the Rosenthal Prize for Innovation in Math Teaching in the US. It rewards professional expertise in the subject of Mathematics, effective teaching practices, care for students' development and contributions to the community. The winner receives a prize of €10,000 and a trophy, and the runner ups receive a total of €2,000. The award is administered by the Irish Mathematical Trust, with generous sponsorship from the Mary Vesey Fund for the Community Foundation for Ireland.
2022 WINNER: Ivan Cliffe, teacher at Ardscoil na Mara, Tramore, Co. Waterford.
“He epitomises the happy yet hard working mentality” (extract from his nomination)
Ivan Cliffe impressed the jury mostly by his reflective attitude towards Mathematics clearly visible in his lesson plans and teaching materials. He seems modest and unassuming, but is clearly much appreciated by both students and colleagues.
A UCC graduate of 2012 with a BA and Professional Diploma in Education, Ivan Cliffe has been working on a fixed term contract in Ardscoil na Mara, Tramore, Co. Waterford Fixed for 4 years. He was convener of the maths department for 2019/20 and head of the numeracy committee for 2021/22. He worked together with other teachers on a Lesson Studies project to improve teaching and learning, presented at the Maths Counts 2018 conference in UCD.
Ivan Cliffe clearly cares about the well-being of his students. His colleague David Hayes comments: “Ivan is an exceptionally dedicated teacher. He builds very strong and meaningful relationships with his students, and this greatly promotes interest and learning in the classroom. “
“Maths anxiety is major issue and he expertly overcomes this issue. Ivan uses a variety of games and team building activities to approach learning from a different perspective which in turn improves students’ attitudes towards maths.”
Ivan completed the ICEP Europe course in ‘General Learning Disability: Enhancing Learning and Teaching’ (2014) and currently partaking in ‘Autism Awareness Diploma’ by Online Academies.
His principal Padraig Cawley states:
“Ivan’s dedication and commitment to his teaching throughout the school closure periods were exceptional. He explored many different methods to assess and gauge the best teaching strategy for each particular group. Ivan worked diligently in using a variety of approaches on the online platform including recorded lessons, voice-over power-points and live teaching via Zoom. From a pastoral approach, Ivan regularly made contact with his students, during the school closures just to check how they were getting on and would report concerns on student wellbeing to year heads and school management when appropriate.”
David Hayes again: “Ivan aims to promote student outcomes at every level. He has recently been involved in the exceptionally abled maths initiative where he regularly sets challenging problems. This stimulates students who might otherwise be bored during maths and promotes growth in exceptionally abled students that might otherwise go untapped.”
Danielle O’Leary, Head of Maths Department and Maths teacher at Mercy Secondary School, Inchicore, Dublin 8, where Danielle has worked for the past eight years.
Danielle O’Leary is a BA graduate of DCU. She then attained a 1st class honours in Professional Diploma in Education (PDE) and Distinction in the Postgraduate Diploma in 21st Century Teaching and Learning, both at Trinity College Dublin.
Danielle’s passion for teaching is clear to see. Her commitment to the mathematical development of her students is evident throughout her teaching portfolio and her colleagues attest to this.
In the words of Principal Michelle O’Kelly, “Danielle has created a culture where numeracy is accessible and enjoyable to all students in our school, her ability to excite and ignite a love of Maths in all students of all abilities is outstanding and it has impacted positively on attendance, retention and overall happiness of our students coming to school.”
Her colleague Catherine Kelly adds: “Danielle has brought about an energy in Maths throughout the whole school community. Maths is not something that happens in an isolated corner of our school; it has spilled out into every corner because of Danielle’s innovation, passion and creativity. Students who come into us resisting the world of Maths become enquirers, questioners, problem solvers, content creators and
RUNNER-UP: William Leahy, teacher of mathematics,
Carrigaline Community School, Waterpark Road, Carrigaline, Co, Cork.
William Leahy holds a B.Sc. in Physical Education & Mathematics with Concurrent Teacher Education.
In William’s words, mathematics is something he is passionate about as it has had such a positive impact on his own life, and as a teacher he feels he can help others ‘through the medium of mathematics’.
William teaches maths at all levels and to all ages. It is clear that he puts a big emphasis on the importance of reaching every student, from those who find maths very difficult and previously disliked maths classes to those who are gifted in this subject.
William ticks all the boxes we expect (and I hope don’t take for granted) from a good and interested teacher, like attending IMTA meetings and CPD events, promoting Maths Week events, and doing a wonderful and innovative job during the pandemic.
Mr Paul Bourke, the school principal, illustrates many of William Leahy’s qualities with examples. Some of these are: William creates and maintains links with teachers in his own school and in other schools and uses this to develop his own teaching and learning strategies; he shares material and methodologies online and is good at adapting his methods to be shared in a cross-curricular fashion; he plays a great role in mentoring the younger teachers coming into the school by sharing of resources, observations and ‘especially by being so very generous with his time’.
Here are two comments from Jack O’Mahony, a colleague of William, who is also a maths teacher: “
William is often the go-to person in the staffroom when it comes to teaching more challenging material or suggesting methods to make some material
more accessible’. ‘He is never satisfied with his work and always tries to improve his pedagogical approach and his content knowledge’;
- Elaine Hickey,
- Fiona O’Regan,
Her nominator is a former pupil who says “Her love for maths shone through in her work, and rubbed off on many of her pupils, including me. She lit a spark for maths in me that I never knew I had and helped me discover that maths is fun. Her exceptional and unique style of teaching made maths my favourite subject. I have even considered a career in maths and that is all because of her”
“Ms Hickey would do the sum in the middle of the board and leave space on the left hand side for her to put any deeper maths explanations.” “ She personally contributed to the success of her students by doing after school classes in her own time without pay”
Her nominators say “I have never seen a teacher with so much dedication to her job. She would always make sure every student feels safe and happy in and outside of class. She subtly balances her professionalism and her humour in her lesson delivery”
”Each class could be taught differently and we enjoy this because we never get bored”
“She will spend the same amount of time on teaching those students who struggle with maths as those who do astonishingly well. She assigns different problems to different students based on their current ability in mathematics.”
The Irish Mathematical Trust
The Irish Mathematical Trust is an organization of mathematicians dedicated to inspiring and training Ireland’s next generation of creative thinkers. It builds on a tradition of 30 years of engagement with school students through free classes run by volunteer staff in 5 major university centres. The Irish Mathematical Trust supports an integrative approach to Mathematical Education, bringing together different stakeholders (teachers, parents, students and lecturers) in a collaborative effort to spread best practices and innovative teaching methods. The IMT range of projects include hundreds of hours of problem solving sessions, engaging tens of thousands of students in mathematical activities through online support for teachers and volunteer work, conversing with the general public, and training university students to teach younger generations. IMT offers school students a global perspective by organizing the participation of Irish teams in prestigious international competitions – Mathematical Olympiads - with three silver and seven bronze medals earned by Irish students in the last five years. All IMT work has been provided at no cost to the students or schools, thereby allowing young people of all backgrounds an equal opportunity to improve their mathematical skills.
The 35th Irish Mathematical Olympiad Roll of Honour
1 Fionn Kimber O’Shea∗, Christian Brothers College, Wellington Road, Cork
2 Taiga Murray∗, St Benildus College, Kilmacud, Dublin 14
3 Tianci Yan, Templeogue College C.S.Sp, Templeogue, Dublin 6W
4 James Chen∗, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
4= Xiang Lian∗, The Teresian School, Donnybrook, Dublin 4
6 Emily Wolfe∗, Bruce College, St. Patrick’s Hill, Cork
7 Rory Moore∗. Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
8 Qingyi Chen, Mount Anville Secondary School, Dublin 14
9 Conor Bradshaw, Mercy Secondary School, Mounthawk, Tralee, Co. Kerry
10 Liam Scott, Presentation Community College, Terenure, Dublin 6W
10= Benjamin Faltin, Sutton Park School, Sutton, Dublin 13
12 Richard Sheahan, Sandford Park School, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
13 Yuan Li Sandford, Park School, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
14 Ronan Zaletel, Col´aiste na Coiribe, Knocknacarra, Galway
15 Brian Gaffney, St Finian’s College, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath
15= Cathal Murphy, Catholic University School, Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2
15= Se´an Hallissey, Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co. Kildare
18 Haoran Ni, The Institute of Education, Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2
19 Aaron Waldron, Mungret Community College, Mungret, Co. Limerick
20 Ang Yang Li, St Michael’s College, Ailesbury Road, Dublin 4
21 Colin Simon-Fellowes, Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co. Kildare
22 Heyan Zhang, The Institute of Education, Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2
22= Coren Hughes, Mercy Secondary School, Mounthawk, Tralee, Co. Kerry
24 Grace Coles, Carrick-on-Shannon Community School, Co. Leitrim
24= Anastasia Vakaloudi, Scoil Mhuire, Wellington Road, Cork
24= Bryan Chan, St. Francis College, Rochestown, Co. Cork
27 Ciaran Fitzgerald, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
The top 6 performers who meet the eligibility requirements on residence (marked with ∗) are invited to form the team to represent Ireland at the 63rd International Mathematical Olympiad in Oslo, Norway.