Whiz kids win awards in SA math contest

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Limpho Sello

KEMPTON PARK – Nineteen children from Lesotho took part in an abacus and mental arithmetic competition designed to boost brain power and stimulate young minds last Saturday in Kempton Park, South Africa.

Of the 19 local whiz kids who competed in the Universal Concepts of Mental Arithmetic Systems (UCMAS)South Africa 9th National Competition, 10 came home with 11 trophies. Lesotho won four major trophies among the 11 accolades, with the overall winner also coming from the Mountain Kingdom.

The 10 winners also qualified for the21st UCMAS International Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Competitionto be held in Dubai on 11 November 2016.

UCMAS Lesotho Franchisee James Mabeta told theLesotho Times the participants, aged between four and 13 years, were tested on their speed, accuracy and calculating skills as they raced against time to add, subtract, multiply and divide numbers.

Mr Mabeta said the programme was launched in the Mountain Kingdom in 2012 with the intention of helping children calculate faster and make their minds sharper.

Sixty-nine children, he said, were enrolled in the programme in Lesotho, with 29 others newly-registered.

Mr Mabeta said he became a UCMAS Lesotho franchisee after looking for material to stimulate his children’s mind on the internet.

“I was surfing on the internet and came across the UCMAS website. Intrigued, I contacted theUCMASheadquarters in Malaysia andwas referred to South African FranchiseeJudy Janse van Rensburg and we agreed to work together, and that is how I became a franchisee,” he said.

“I then realisedUCMAS was not just about solving complex mathematical problems using mental arithmetic, but also about instilling and boosting confidence at an early stage in life.”

Mr Mabeta added: “Realising the programme was a business opportunity,Ithen attended some training sessions to operate a franchise and teach the children.

He said the programme would inculcate a culture of problem-solving and love for mathematics.

“It is common knowledge that children in Lesotho and Africa in general struggle with mathematics because the love of problem-solving is not instilled at a very young age,” Mr Mabeta said.

“I urge the corporate sector to give us more support to ensureUCMAS can cater for more children.”

A parent for one of the trophy winners, Matšepo Mantutle, said she had noticed a marked improvement in her boy’s cognitive skills since enrolling for the programme.

“I am happy and very much impressed with my boy’s performance and the other children. We go home proud parents, and I am glad that I decided to enrol my child at UCMAS Lesotho and hope they continue to groom our children to be the best,” Ms Mantutle said.

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