The 4th edition of the IMT Mathematics Awards was celebrated in Aula Maxima of the University College Cork on 27th May 2023.
This unique event brings together a diverse community of school teachers, students, academics, parents, and sponsors to honour Irish maths achievements, motivate and inspire each other.
The Master of Ceremony Prof. Stephen Buckley, Head of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Maynooth University, Member of the Royal Irish Academy, kept the guests well engaged and entertained throughout the afternoon.
Dr. Kevin Hayes, Head of the School of Mathematical Sciences, UCC, welcomed all guests with a humorous speech peppered with interesting stories about the evolution of Maths and its role in society.
Dr. Bernd Kreussler, the chair of the Irish Mathematical Trust, gave an overview of the main activities of the group. An organisation of more than 60 mathematicians from across the country, the IMT aims to engage with all stakeholders in the success of Irish mathematics education. The IMT has been running national competitions like the Irish Mathematical Olympiad and sent an Irish team to the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) for 36 years now. More recently, the Award for Irish Teachers of Mathematics was established in 2017-2018 due to generous sponsorship from the Mary Vesey Fund for the Community Foundation for Ireland.
An overview of the awardees is below.
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.
WINNER: Meighan Duffy, teacher at Athlone Community College.
A graduate of the University of Galway with First Class Honours, Meighan Duffy started her career with a research project on 'Developing critical thinking, justification and generalisation skills in mathematics through Socratic questioning', published in the International Journal of Teacher Action Research. She has been teaching at her local in county Cavan school since 2014. She is the elected chairperson of the Irish Applied Maths Teachers' Association (IAMTA). As a PDST associate she delivers continued professional development support to other teachers locally and nationally through workshops.
Her principal Eileen Donohoe said: “Meighan Duffy is a unique teacher who excels at ensuring students flourish in her classroom and beyond. In my role in senior management for the last 30 years, I have never encountered such ability, enthusiasm, diligence, dedication and resilience from a teacher. … Her skills as a Maths teacher are highly regarded not just in the school setting but in the wider community, where Athlone Community College is now the school of choice. “
“Meighan can be seen regularly, giving up her lunch times and after school, giving feedback, encouragement and extra help to students. She is incredibly intuitive. Students have often joked that she must be psychic. She has an incredible ability, despite her full capacity classes, to spot when something is wrong with a student and they are comfortable to confide in her.
She ensures no student is left behind, no matter what the circumstance. She gives up an incredible amount of time, very much under the radar, to students who are struggling, absent due to illness or bereavement etc.
Meighan encourages a growth mindset in students. She truly believes that every student can achieve at Maths and she proves this over and over again. Whether she is teaching OL or HL students, she ensures they all achieve the best they can. Just last year, 25 students in her LC HL Maths class achieved the top H1 grade, 4 students achieved a H2 and 1 student a H3. Applied Maths was a similar story with just under 50% of the class achieving a H1. These are results that we have become accustomed to. Since Meighan started teaching in Athlone Community College, Maths and Applied Maths have become the strongest performing subjects in our school in State exams.”
“Meighan is particularly passionate about inspiring more female students to excel in STEM. We have had a huge increase in students going on to study the likes of Maths and Engineering since Meighan has started teaching here and the increase is particularly impressive when looking at female progression in these areas.”
RUNNER-UP: Shannon Ahern, teacher at St Declan’s College, Dublin
The jury was particularly impressed by Shannon Ahern’s fresh, innovative communication style. Her nominator said “A crucial part of why I could retain much of the math information was that I received data in a way best suited for me... She went over and beyond to provide free math grinds at lunch twice a week, which was around 2 hours a week; this was extremely helpful as they were convenient and practical”.
“One beneficial tool was her YouTube channel…. The YouTube videos were valuable as they would have examples of questions, and she would walk through how to answer them, and she covered many different topics. This was particularly helpful when students were quarantined at home and could not come to school.”
Her principal Brian Avery added: “In addition to curating engaging, student-centred lesson plans, Shannon's subject expertise allows her to be highly responsive to students' needs. She can quickly identify the assumptions they hold that may hinder their progress and is able to employ Socratic questioning to guide them towards clarity. By addressing misconceptions—such as assuming an angle is 90 degrees "because it looks like it" or believing that x/x is 0 "because it cancels"—Shannon can help students overcome ingrained misunderstandings and beliefs, replacing them with a genuine, deep understanding of mathematics, moving beyond procedural habits. At the heart of her discovery-based, student-centred approach to mathematics lies the integration of technology, which plays a crucial role in bringing mathematical concepts to life and enabling students to experiment with challenging topics like algebra and calculus. In particular, PhET and Desmos simulations… By using technology to visualise mathematical phenomena, students can move beyond procedural routines and develop a deeper understanding of the underlying principles”
STUDENT CHOICE AWARD: Breda Disney, teacher at Patrician Secondary School, Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Breda has been a finalist in three editions of the teachers’ award already. She is clearly much loved by students. One of her colleagues commented: “Whilst working in another local post-primary school, and before I had joined Patrician Secondary School (PSS), I was made aware of an exceptional Maths teacher named Breda Disney. Both present (and past!) students speak of Breda with awe and fondness, and so I couldn’t help but be excited to meet her when I was joining the PSS. I quickly found that Breda’s reputation was certainly not unfounded; Breda is one of those rare individuals who manages to make everyone she encounters better for having been in her company.
Her principalPat O’Leary said: “We are a non-fee paying voluntary secondary school beside a fee paying school. Many parents have told me that they choose our school because of our strong maths department and the opportunities that are available for the boys to develop their love of maths. This teacher is at the heart of this process. The teacher is selfless in her personal time given to these projects which involves researching national competitions as well as international competitions.”
DIPLOMAS of EXCELLENCE
Diplomas, plaques, trophies were offered by Dr. Tom Carroll, Head of Discipline Mathematics, UCC.
Dean Ryan, teacher at Christian Brothers College, Cork
His nominators described Dean Ryan as “a very inspiring and encouraging teacher” “Mr. Ryan has the ability to realise the potential in children at an early stage which may go unnoticed by other teachers. Mr. Ryan’s opinions are respected by his students and he has the ability to engage and motivate them to succeed. He does this in a fun way which makes his classes very enjoyable..” Mr Ryan helps students engage in maths competitions such as Pi Quiz and Team Maths, IrMO, and international competitions.
Niall Twomey, teacher at Coláiste Íde agus Iosef, Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick
Niall is a cofounder in his school of a weekly Maths Circles Club, and he also offers extra classes in his free time to students who are having difficulty. A former pupil’s nomination states “Dedicated, passionate and caring are just three words that I would use to describe Mr Niall Twomey.” “Before transition year maths was a subject which I found mundane. When I was In TY Mr Twomey encouraged me to attend the Maths Enrichment classes in UL, something which gave me a love of all maths topics. The first two weeks of the classes were very difficult as I felt completely out of my depth and felt like an impostor. Mr Twomey allayed my anxiety and persuaded me to continue attending. Each week he took time to enquire how I was getting on and to explain anything I may have found difficult… This has had a major impact on me deciding my future career and instilling a love for maths in me that I hope to instil in students someday.
Brian Carroll, teacher at Our Lady’s Secondary School, Templemore, Co. Tipperary awarded in absentia.
The 2023 Irish Mathematical Olympiad Awards
Maths competitions are often a very effective way to stimulate the students’ performance and self-development. 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 64th 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. Since 2012, the IMO has a sister competition, the European Girls Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO), which has been growing to over 55 participating countries from Europe and four other continents. To select students for the international olympiads, the IMT is organising the Irish Mathematical Olympiads.
Olympians Fionn Kimber O’Shea (IMO 2021, 2022 and 2023 team member), Emily Wolfe (EGMO 2022 and 2023 and IMO 2022 and 2023) and Ayushi Mahajan (EGMO 2022, 2023) talked about their experiences with international Olympiads, encouraging their fellow students to think of these less in competitive terms and more as opportunities to build connections with amazing people, as well as gateways to maths camps and other collaborative events across the world.
The 36th Irish Mathematical Olympiad Roll of Honour
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.
1 Fionn Kimber O’Shea, Christian Brothers College, Cork – winner, the Fergus Gaines cup.
2 Tianci Yan, Wesley College, Ballinteer, Dublin 16
3 Emily Wolfe, Bruce College, St. Patrick’s Hill, Cork
4 Se´an Hallissey, Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co. Kildare
5 Yuan Li, Sandford Park School, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
6 Owen Barron, Col´aiste an Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown, Cork
The students on the Roll of Honour received diplomas and book gifts.
7 Ang Yang Li, St Michael’s College, Ailesbury Road, Dublin 4
8 Xiang Lian, The Institute of Education, Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2
9= Pau Nieto Bou, St. Clement’s College, Limerick
9= Ayushi Mahajan, Christ King Secondary School, Cork
9= Isaac Lee, Presentation Brothers School, Cork
12 Xiwen Tan, The Institute of Education, Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2
13 Robert Dunne, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
14 Luca Zani, De La Salle College, Churchtown, Dublin 14
15= Zongwen Wu, The High School, Rathgar, Dublin 6
15= James Chen, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
17 Noah Morgan-Doyle, Wesley College, Ballinteer, Dublin 16
18 Guy Jenkinson, St. Andrew’s College, Blackrock, Co. Dublin
19 Stephen Smith, Oatlands College, Mount Merrion, Co. Dublin
20 Bryan Chan, St. Francis College, Rochestown, Co. Cork
21 Anna Giacobbe, Col´aiste Einde, Co. Galway ´
22= Yitian Chen, St. Andrew’s College, Blackrock, Co. Dublin
22= Oscar O’Callaghan, Kinsale Community School, Co. Cork
24= Jack McAuliffe, St. Flannan’s College, Ennis, Co. Clare
24= Rian Malletta, Castletroy College, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
26 Qingyi Chen, Mount Anville Secondary School, Dublin 14
27= Dylan Minogue, Sutton Park School, Sutton, Dublin 13
27= Victor Golub, The Institute of Education, Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2
27= Sofia Babic, Confey College, Leixlip, Co. Kildare
27= Laura Cassidy, Salerno Secondary School, Co. Galway
27= Fintan Byrne, St. Peter’s College, Dunboyne, Co. Meath
Charlotte Walmsley brought the first moments of musical inspiration of the afternoon. She played pieces by Rachmaninoff and Liszt.
At 14, Charlotte Walmsley is one of the youngest members of the Cork Mathematics Enrichment community. In her first year of Saturday classes, she already made good friends, learned a lot, and earned 5th place (team reserve) in the EGMO 2023 selection test. Charlotte has been studying piano at the MTU Cork School of Music since the age of 8 with her teacher Niall Ó Luasa. This year, she won the Junior Recital Competition at the Cork School of Music. In the same competition, she was also given the award for the Highest-Placed Pianist. In 2022, Charlotte won the Maud O’Hanlon Perpetual Trophy for the Most-Distinguished Student in Keyboard Studies at the Cork School of Music. Charlotte enjoys performing and has won several awards in Feis Maitiú piano competitions in Cork.
Junjia Li delighted the audience with a lovely piano recital featuring pieces by Liszt, Debussy, Ravel and Gottschalk. Junjia Li started learning to play piano at the age of 3. She will be doing her Leaving Cert this summer as she is planning to study Economics at the LSE in September 2023. She has been studying piano at the Royal Irish Academy of Music with a full scholarship for 2 years. In 2019 she has won the 1st prize for the Dorothy Stokes Rosebowl in PianoFest Competition. She has participated in multiples music competitions including the national piano competition Feis Ceoil, where she has won 2nd prize in the Patricia Read Memorial Cup and was highly commended in the sonata competition in 2021.
Junjia Li dedicated her last piece to her teacher Mayya Golitsyna who helped her start to love mathematics through their one-on-one classes. Junijia’ younger brother Ang Yang (Justin) is a promising young mathematician. Among his recent achievements is a Bronze Ruler award at the Iranian Geometry Olympiad 2022.
Support by the Mary Vesey Fund at the Community Foundation for Ireland helps reward, motivate and train these students with a view to future participation in international olympiads.
The IMT gratefully announces the sponsorship of Susquehanna International Group who will sponsor the Irish team at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Japan, July 2023.