In summer, kids are wont to spend the hot days in the pool, at the beach, or at least eating ice cream in the air conditioned mall. But for some kids, a day spent on a school subject was among the highlights of their summer vacation. On the last day of July, 60 young math lovers gathered at the Weizmann Institute of Science for a full, intensive day of math. Meeting in the heart of the Institute’s Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, the Jacob Ziskind Building, the kids aged 6-11 came from all over the country and had passed a rigorous acceptance exam. The event was hosted by a new organization: Young Mathematicians. From morning to night, the kids heard talks, worked on math puzzles, were introduced to the wonders of geometry, learned to fold origami and even divided into teams for a math competition. All the events were designed to stimulate the minds of these bright children, in the hopes that they will continue to take an interest in math as a subject, as well as giving them a chance to meet with others who have similar interests.
“Our main goal is to raise a generation of young people who are strong in math, who can think creatively and who appreciate knowledge,” says Maria Gringlaz, the director of Young Mathematicians, an organization established around a year and a half ago by a group of teachers and mathematicians. “We expect that some of these children will go on to make up Israel’s National Math team, which competes in the International Mathematics Olympiads, and from there they may continue on to academic studies in the field. At the same time, we aim to advance mathematics teaching in the country and to encourage math teachers to find ways to make lessons more engaging.”
Besides the intensive all-math day at the Institute, Young Mathematicians organizes a national Math Olympiad for elementary school-aged children (in partnership with the Weizmann Institute of Science) and math-based after-school clubs around the country for bright, motivated kids. In addition, the organization writes and distributes math materials and works with teachers who are interested in teaching math subjects above and beyond the required curriculum.