St Matthew's Catholic School students take out junior category in national mathematics competition

Lara Disher, Jessica Nipperess, Rikeya Alhovirta and Anthea Kearins.
Lara Disher, Jessica Nipperess, Rikeya Alhovirta and Anthea Kearins.

Students from St Matthew’s Catholic School took out top junior honours at the National Choose Maths Awards last Friday in Melbourne.

The ‘Nerdicorns’ team had to create a short video based on the theme ‘Our World Need Maths’, which explained a mathematical problem or the application of mathematics in an entertaining way.

The video entry by Lara Disher, Jessica Nipperess, Rikeya Alhovirta and Anthea Kearins, stood out from the crowd of over 1000 others a crowd of thousands and awarded Best Junior Video (Years 5, 6 and 7).

Perhaps taking a leaf out of Dr Who's book, the Nerdicorns explored what the world would be like if they travelled through  time and wiped out some of the most important mathematicians across history.

Jessica Nipperess, said the competition has been a rewarding process and has shown her a new side to maths.

“Having almost got into the finals last year, we threw ourselves into it again and the experience was worth all the trouble. I really enjoyed the challenge of the project, working with friends and being able to combine maths with creativity,” she said.

Sandra Egan, maths teacher at St Matthew’s, said the girls have worked extremely hard to create, produce and submit a video of this quality.

“It is hard to believe that they are only in Year 7 and have already made such an impact. The competition is a great opportunity to highlight the application of mathematics in the real world and show the students how skills can be carried on beyond their schooling lives,” she said. “We are so lucky to have such committed students who value their own contribution to making maths relevant.”

And added that while the students voluntarily participated in the competition, St Matthew’s offered ongoing support where needed.

“This competition is student-lead, so teacher involvement is very limited but we helped as much as we could,” she said. “During this process, the maths department at St Matthews offered weekly tutoring sessions as well as extra times to offer the students support.”

‘Nerdicorns’ member, Lara Disher, said although the planning and filming for the competition took up a lot of their free time, it allowed all four of the girls to work collaboratively.

“We have spent multiple weekends meeting up with one another. We have been jumping in rivers, flying drones and sewing our costumes all while making the video,” she said. “Travelling to Melbourne for the first time to attend the awards ceremony as a finalist team is an amazing and unexpected reward for all our hard work.”

The local team faced off against an entry from Pymble Ladies Collage to take out the top prize of $2000.

Rachel Disher, mother of Lara, said the whole experience has been very rewarding for the girls and puts them on a level playing field with students all over Australia. 

“Despite living in a little country town in regional New South Wales the girls can compete with students across the country and succeed,” she said.

St Matthew’s principal, Jason Hanrahan, said, “this is a wonderful achievement for the school and we are so proud of the girls”.

“It shows the fabulous way our teachers have instilled a love of learning creatively in our students,” he said. “These opportunities are invaluable for the development of 21st Century skills such as creative thinking and problem solving.”