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  • Writer's pictureAnca Mustata

IMT Awards Ceremony 2024

Updated: Jun 13


There was a warm and lively atmosphere in the Aula Maxima of University College Cork on Saturday, 25th May, long before the 2024 Mathematics Awards Ceremony began.

While academic staff and student hosts Dr. Andrei Mustata, Bryan Chan, Conor Bradshaw and Suneet Mahajan put all their energy and artistry in readying the room and the flower displays, their fellow mathematicians in the trio “Stranded” - Dr. Kieran Mulchrone, Dr. Martin Kilian and their friend Mr. Finbarr O’Flaherty - practiced their voice and guitars. Dr. Andrew Smith of UCD arrived from Dublin and immediately joined them at the piano for an improv session.

Then Charlotte Walmsley, one of the youngest student  laureates on the day, practiced her interpretation of Chopin’s Walz in E minor - with delicate control, after which she also breezed through Liszt’s Étude in D minor just for added fun.


The official celebration started shortly after. Dr. Leo Creedon, President of the Irish Mathematical Society, (below on the right) offered a warm welcome to all present: teachers, students, parents and academics.

Dr. Bernd Kreussler (above on the left), the chair of the Irish Mathematical Trust, gave a quick overview of the IMT activities, emphasizing the enormous work put by dozens of volunteers every year.


Prof. Stephen Buckley, MRIA, Head of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Maynooth University, acted as Masters of Ceremonies.

Following by now on a long tradition of these “Oscars for mathematics”, he took a comparative look into this year's Irish Oscar winners. Inspired by the Irish-produced film "Poor things", what if brain transplants would insure all students are always engaged and attentive? “But then teaching would be much easier, and these awards would be less important!” In response to "Oppenheimer", where Cork's own Cillian Murphy made a big bang, he debunked the myth that genius is a necessary condition for a meaningful STEM career: “many students can excel at mathematics and use it in significant ways in their future careers if they are simply attentive, motivated, and confident in their skills”.

 



The 5th edition of the Award for Irish Teachers of Mathematics started with a look back at its beginnings. The award was set up in 2017 due to generous sponsorship of Frank Kenny through the Mary Vesey Fund at The Community Foundation for Ireland. The donor 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 IMT is grateful for the sponsor’s continued support for this important act of recognition.


In the words of one jury member:

“Reading these teachers' applications...has cheered me up....It's wonderful that people with their skill and enthusiasm for teaching, and knowledge of maths, are going into the teaching profession.”

While another jury member noted “These awards recognise teachers who are worth their weight in gold, teachers who excel at a task that is vital for our future economic prosperity… being on this jury has been a joyful experience!”


 The 2024 winner is Mary Frawley, teacher at Laurel Hill Secondary School FCJ.

She was awarded a trophy and a prize of €10,000.


Following her PhD in Physics (2014) and a Professional Diploma in Education (2015), Mary Frawley has taught at both university and secondary school level, covering Maths, Physics, Science and Applied Maths.

 

Mary has positively impacted the lives of many students by overcoming challenges, grasping concepts or changing academic goals. She has always had a strong interest in STEM promotion, particularly among girls. Mary has been the voice for STEM for the past nine years, facilitating events such as BTYSE (acting as lead mentor for 7 years, for projects which have won category and group awards), Scifest, John Hooper Statistics competition mentor, Maths and Science weeks, internal Scifest and Maths Olympiad organiser, free after school maths classes to students who need additional help. She has also developed maths circles in the school and mentored staff and students to facilitate this. These maths circles not only allow students to get help with maths but also promote maths as something to be enjoyed together rather than endured. Mary encourages students to seek extra challenges so that they can develop their full potential, for example by participating in enrichment classes, which she also teaches, helping students from across the region, and bridging the gap between the school and the maths enrichment curriculum.

 

Mary has a Youtube Channel of video resources that she has created and that have proved invaluable to the maths department during and after the pandemic. We still use them today and I’m sure the wider community have made use of them also. She works closely with the PDST and has developed initiatives to enrich staff’ understanding of digital technologies and their uses in all areas of the curriculum.

 

The runner up Sean McWeeney, teacher at Ard Scoil Ris, Dublin

He received a plaque and a €2,000 prize.

Sean shares engaging maths facts and effective teaching strategies, encouraging educators to make maths exciting and accessible for all. His contributions to Féilte and the IMTA conferences have empowered teachers with valuable insights and confidence to explore maths in a hands on way. Moreover, recognising a gap in STEM outreach, Sean founded the North West STEM Fest. This initiative, specifically targeting underserved students in Leitrim and beyond, has quickly become a highlight of the summer for students in the North West.

Drawing from his observations at his North Inner City teaching experience, he understands that hands-on learning resonates deeply with his students. This insight led Sean to create interactive workshops that render learning a tangible, engaging experience. Among these, he introduced "Juggling Quadratics," a workshop designed not only to demystify quadratic equations but also to redefine the essence of learning. Sean emphasises that mastering a new skill, whether it's juggling or solving complex mathematical problems, demands motivation and persistent practice. His commitment to making mathematics accessible and enjoyable inspired him to extend his workshops beyond his own school, offering them nationwide.

 


The teacher finalists were then awarded Diplomas of Excellence:

 

 Sarah Frawley, teacher at Castletroy College, Limerick

Sarah has given her time weekly, delivering free maths grinds with Limerick

Youth Service, through St. Vincent De Paul, to groups of disadvantaged students from inner city schools. Within the school, she stays after hours every Wednesday and runs a drop-in clinic for her 6th years, where students feel comfortable to come enjoy chat and some snacks in a safe and welcoming environment to practise skills and ask for help anywhere they need it. They use the time to discover links between topics and address any misconceptions. At junior cycle, she covers supervised study once a week in a small group setting where students can seek help and guidance with maths among other subject areas including Graphics, Metalwork, Science, and anywhere else she can help. For the past five years, Sarah has worked with the team delivering enrichment classes at the University of Limerick. She has made important contributions to bridging the gap between the school and the maths enrichment curriculum.

 

Sean O’Brien, teacher at Presentation Brothers College, Cork

His nominators say: 2I really appreciate the style of teaching he provides for our class. I also enjoy his control of the pace for teaching the curriculum. Most importantly I think he has given us a necessary solid foundation for the higher level maths course. He has a very good understanding of all the concepts that he teaches. This ties into the fact that he teaches in a way that we all understand and makes sure we know why a statement is true and never encourages us to just accept a statement is true". "Of course he helps us do well in our exams but he also shows us interesting explanations to our questions during class. I appreciate that he takes the job seriously and can be strict if he needs to be".

 

Norma Twomey Fitzgerald, teacher at Boherbue Comprehensive School, Mallow

Her nominators say: Ms Twomey is excellent at explaining things and is just a great teacher overall. She is funny and her approach towards teaching makes it way easier to understand even the hardest thingsShe is the mathematics coordinator and she organises all mathematically based events in our school – such as participation in the IMTA First Year Maths Competition and nominates students for Mathematics Enrichment courses.

 

 


For teachers who strive to stimulate their students’ curiosity and self-development, Mathematics competitions often provide great opportunities to identify and reward both perseverance and talent. For the students, they are a source of excitement, motivation, and life-changing experiences.

Support by the Mary Vesey Fund at the Community Foundation for Ireland helps reward, motivate and train students with a view to future participation in international olympiads.

 

The Irish Mathematical Trust gratefully acknowledge the sponsorship by the Susquehanna International Group, supporting both the Irish Mathematical Olympiad and the Irish team at the International Mathematical Olympiad in July 2024.

 

The celebration of student results started with laureates from invitational international competitions. Zongwen Wu, Xueyao Sun, Charlotte Walmsley, Aifric Barron, Jack McAuliffe, Yitian Chen received Merit Certificates, while Dylan Minogue and Fionn Kimber O'Shea received Certificates of Distinction for their participation in the British Mathematical Olympiad.



Fionn Kimber O’Shea and Zongwen Wu were rewarded for their results in the Advanced group at the Iranian Geometry Olympiad (bronze and honourable mention, respectively).

For school-going mathematicians across the world, the epitome of Maths Competitions is the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO).

The IMO is an annual event for pre-college students at which 6 hard maths problems that require a lot of creativity are to be solved. Now in its 65th year, it is the Olympiad with the longest tradition among all international science Olympiads. Every year, it gathers more than 600 contestants from more than 100 countries, representing more than 90% of the world’s population. To select students for the IMO, the IMT is organising the Irish Mathematical Olympiads, and starting this year, two team selection tests.

IMO 2023 team members Fionn Kimber O’Shea and Owen Barron spoke about their experiences with mathematical Olympiads.




Now at his 4th and last IMO participation, Fionn gave an inspiring speech addressed mainly to the younger students: trust yourselves and your powers; with work and perseverance, you will reach and surpass any goals, just like Fionn’s Olympiad trajectory has shown. He also emphasized the social aspect of Olympiads – the solid friendships he built with students in different countries, which only consolidated across the years despite the geographic distances.


Owen Barron took part in IMO for the first time in 2023; he gave a very thorough and informative account of the entire process of training, competing and enjoying the event, as well as the international Maths camps that he joined as a follow-up.

Maria Kiiko gave a beautiful review of the 13th European Girls Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO) which took place this year in Georgia, in April 2024. Maria recounted how surprised and grateful she was to represent Ireland at EGMO, as she is originally from Ukraine.


All three students emphasized the importance of the countless hours of training provided to them by IMT members in Mathematics Enrichment centres and in Maths Camps. These would not be possible without support from our sponsors the Mary Vesey Fund at the Community Foundation of Ireland, and the Susquehanna International Group.

 

The laureates of the Irish Mathematical Olympiad were then offered diplomas by Dr. Bernd Kreussler and Dr. Andrew Smith. The IrMO is a national competition for school students, with more than 15,000 taking part in round 1 in schools and about 100 competing in round 2 in 6 Maths Enrichment centres. Starting from second place, they are



Vitalii Halushko,                  St Vincent’s College, Castleknock, Dublin 15

Tianci Yan,                          Wesley College, Ballinteer, Dublin 16

Grigory Barsegov,              The Institute of Education, Dublin 2

AngYang Li,                        The Institute of Education, Dublin 2

Owen Barron,                      Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown, Cork

Zongwen Wu,                      The High School, Rathgar, Dublin 6

Qingyi Chen,                       Mount Anville Secondary School, Dublin 14

Jack McAuliffe,                   St.Flannan’s College, Ennis, Co.Clare

Shuyang Feng,                    St.Columba’s College, Whitechurch, Dublin16

Yuan Li,                               Sandford Park School, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Dylan Minogue,                   Sutton Park School, Sutton, Dublin13

Charlotte Walmsley,             Scoil Mhuire Secondary School, Cork

Nathan Webster,                   St Vincent’s College, Castleknock, Dublin 15

Kevin Yu,                              Villiers School, North Circular Road, Limerick

Odhran Keenan,                   Colaiste Bhaile Chlair, Co Galway

Aidan Alexander,                  St Mac Dara’s Community College, Dublin 6

Maria Kiiko,                           Colaiste Nano Nagle, Sexton Street, Limerick

Robert Dunne,                      Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick

Anja MacKenzie,                  St Kilian’s Deutsche Schule, Dublin 14

Liyuan Liu,                            The Institute of Education, Dublin 2

Rian Malleta,                         Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick

Lorcan Garvin,                      Colaiste Chu Chulainn, Dundalk, Co Louth

William Lyons,                       St Brendan’s College Killarney, Co Kerry

Siqin You,                              Nord Anglia International School, Dublin18

Ivan Trofymenko,                   St. Louis Community School, Galway

Benedek Hernold-Csorba     Mercy Secondary School Mounthawk, Tralee

Ju Young Lee,                        Presentation Brothers College, Cork

 

The Fergus Gaines cup, presented to the best performer at the IrMO, was received for the third and last time by: Fionn Kimber O’Shea, Christian Brothers College, Cork


The team selected to represent Ireland at IMO 2024 was invited on stage

 

Fionn Kimber O’Shea,     Christian Brothers College, Cork

Vitalii Halushko,              St Vincent’s College, Castleknock, Dublin 15

Owen Barron,                   Colaiste an Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown, Cork

Zongwen Wu,                   The High School, Rathgar, Dublin 6

Tianci Yan,                        Wesley College, Ballinteer, Dublin 16

Grigory Barsegov,            The Institute of Education, Dublin 2

Leader: Andrew Smith (UCD),  Deputy: Tianyiwa Xie (Cambridge)



After the ceremony, people stayed on for hours talking – students as well as teachers, parents and IMT members - swapping stories and making common plans for the future.

 

In the words of the two teacher laureates Mary and Sarah Frawley: “The ceremony was lovely, we really enjoyed the music, food etc, and it was great to have the opportunity to chat to like minded people in the Maths community. We were very impressed with the students themselves, they were so friendly and confident and their speeches were amazing “ and  “I will never stop doing Olympiads, I want this to go on forever!”


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