Centre for Education in Math and Computing hosts cross-country contest-marking event

Monday, June 3, 2024

From April 24 to 26, current and retired math educators gathered on campus and online to grade the submissions to the Euclid, Fryer, Galois, and Hypatia (EFGH) contests held earlier that month. Though the CEMC offers a dozen math contests for students around the world, these four (designed for students in grades 12, 9, 10, and 11, respectively) ask participants to write full-solution answers to problems. 

In mathematics, we do care about the “final answer” but often the process for getting there and how we explain it is as important as the final result,” explains CEMC director Ian VanderBurgh. “As a result, these tests require careful reading and marking by mathematics educators.  This is a daunting task, considering there were about 43, 000 papers to mark.”

Group photo of 200 volunteers

More than 200 educator volunteers gathered on campus

Approximately 200 volunteers, including current and retired secondary school teachers from eight Canadian provinces and one territory, gathered on campus over the three-day period to grade the EFGH submissions. An additional 160 graders, including volunteers from around the world, graded submissions together online using the Crowdmark tool.

Angela Kurmey, a current math teacher who graduated from Waterloo with a master’s of mathematics for teachers in 2021, volunteered for the marking event for the first time this year on the recommendation of a friend. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to be part of this event, including meeting math educators from across the country and talking to them about what happening with math in other schools,” she says. “The main challenge was trying to determine marks for solutions that included something unexpected, or where it was hard to follow the student’s thinking. On the other hand, a highlight was encountering unexpected but beautiful solutions that used an approach I’d never considered.”

People grading on laptops in a crowded room

“Students write our contests to challenge themselves and to engage themselves further with mathematics and computing; providing results from our contests is an important part of this cycle,” VanderBurgh says. “Equally important is the professional development that our educator volunteers get, both through the actual marking of the papers and through the conversations they have about mathematics and education with their fellow educators.”

Winnipeg math teacher Clay Kellough has been running CEMC math contests with his students for thirty years, and participating in the grading event for twenty. Like Kurmey, he enjoys the opportunity to see how other students approach math problems. “I get to see what a large, not-taught-by-me number of student answers would look like.  You get to know your own students pretty well and often you can kind of predict how they’ll approach and answer some of the problems.  You always wonder if your experiences are unique; this was a great way to see how kids from other schools, even other provinces attacked the questions.”

A person smiles while grading on a tablet

Though he has participated in the grading at local hubs in the past, this time Kellough’s grading experience took place entirely online. While he still enjoyed the grading, he says, he missed the community, and hopes that he can grade in person alongside other volunteers again next year.

Ioana Morcov teaches high school math in Vancouver, and also graded online this year. Though she also wishes she could have participated in person, one of her colleagues was also participating as a volunteer, and they had fun grading together and chatting about the experience. “I very much believe in the mission of the math contests and I appreciate their existence,” she says. “These contests are an amazing enrichment activity for students. It’s exciting to be part of it and to help these events exist.

“As far as we know, the CEMC is the only organization in the world that offers open registration, full-solution mathematics contests,” VanderBurgh says. “We can only do this because of the incredibly community of educators that support this project.”  

To learn more about the CEMC, including future contest marking events, visit their website.