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Peace Corps Volunteers Host Math Challenge in South Africa

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 23, 2012 – Peace Corps volunteers Chris Ames of Chicago, Ill., and Genna Cummins of Mount Vernon, Ky., have organized a math competition for students in six South African schools. Modeled after the American “Mathletes” competition, sixth grade students earn points for their school when they correctly solve problems in three different rounds of competition.

“One of the many reasons that math skills are so poor in rural South Africa is the amount of intimidation and anxiety it induces in learners,” said Ames, who has been teaching Math in South Africa since July 2011. “In order to make math fun and ease some of these anxieties, Genna and I have introduced Mathletes, which is a type of Math competition already well established in the United States.”

Magnifying glass iconStudents compete in a math competition organized by Peace Corps volunteers Chris Ames and Genna Cummins in South Africa.Each school sends six sixth grade students to play in three distinct rounds. In the first round, all of the players attempt to answer a multiplication question. The first student to answer the question correctly gains the point. In round two, the students answer questions in five different categories with varying difficulty and point values. In the third round, each team has five minutes to answer to one final problem.

Magnifying glass icon Students  congratulate each other after competing in a math competition in South Africa.Ames and Cummins have organized two rounds with six schools and hope that teachers will continue to contribute to the challenge. The volunteers have provided the schools with a template to create their own games and a list of topics they should expect to be addressed in each game. They will help teachers write their own math problems to keep the math challenge sustainable.

About Peace Corps/South Africa: More than 1,050 Peace Corps volunteers have served in South Africa since the program was established in 1997. Currently, 183 volunteers serve in South Africa. Volunteers work in the areas of education and health. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: isiNdebele, isiZulu, Sepedi, Setswana, siSwati, Northern Sotho, Venda, XiTsongo, Xhosa and Afrikaans.

Magnifying glass iconPeace Corps volunteer Chris Ames quizzes South African students in a math competition he organized with Genna Cummins.About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.

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