The Brookside Mathlete 2018 series was successfully concluded on September 8, with students from Rift Valley schools bagging the top prizes this time round.
Kapsabet High and Moi Girls Eldoret produced the boy and girl degree scholarship winners at the grand finale held at Strathmore University, Nairobi.
William Kaiser of Kapsabet High emerged the winner in the boys’ category ahead of compatriot Elvis Kiprotich.
Kimei Trizah Jebet of Moi Girls Eldoret took the girls’ top prize after scoring 91 per cent. Mukhwana Shirlene, also of Moi Girls Eldoret, came second with a score of 90 per cent.
Jebet and Kaiser have thus won themselves degree scholarships to study at Strathmore University, this being the grand Mathlete prize.
The maths departments that nurtured them at their respective schools received cash prizes of Ksh200,000 each.
All grand finalists were awarded medals for making it to the final contest.
Form Three Mathlete winners, on the other hand, get one-year school fees scholarships from Brookside, covering their Form Four studies and ensuring that their last year of secondary school does not get interrupted for lack of fees.
For instance, last year (2017) Peninah Wamweru Muragu of St Francis Mang’u Girls High School received such a scholarship just in time.
“I first cried in happiness when my daughter won a full year’s scholarship,” recalls her mother. “I was overjoyed because the scholarship was a godsend. I did not have a job. Where would I have got my daughter’s fees from?” she poses.
“I thank God for Brookside and pray that they continue giving scholarships to other children,” Ms Muragu adds.
Anyone can win
Since 2015, Brookside Mathlete winners have come from different schools. This, observes Brookside Marketing Manager Mr Peter Wasonga, “shows that anyone can win this contest”.
“You do not have to come from a national school or a school in Nairobi to clinch the top prize. This encourages students from all over the country to try their luck,” he adds.
In 2018, the competition went down to the wire. Students from several schools tied at different stages of the maths challenge, including at the grand finale. The organisers had to introduce tie breakers to get eventual winners.
Also, more girls (86) than boys (82) made it to the grand finale at Strathmore University this year, making a total of 168 grand finalists. Last year, the boy and girl finalists were 78 and 75 respectively, making a total of 153.
Huge 2019 budget
Brookside Dairy projects that next year, not less than a total of 250 students will compete for the grand prize at the finals.
The finalists will comprise 10 regional Form Four Mathlete county winners (five boys and five girls) from each of the 25 participating counties.
To achieve this, Brookside has more than doubled its sponsorship of the annual Mathlete competition from Ksh15 million this year to Ksh32 million next year. This year’s sponsorship represents a slight increment over the 2017 figure of Ksh14.5 million.
The huge 2019 budget will help take this unique national mathematics competition much closer to secondary schools. Many more students will participate in the contests closest to their schools and have opportunities to win the grand prize.
Mr Wasonga says that the Brookside Mathlete programme will be much bigger and more streamlined next year.
The plan, he explains, is to increase the number of participating schools from this year’s 752 to 4,000 next year. This will nearly double the number of participants from this year’s 55,000 to more than 100,000.
To achieve this target, Brookside is raising Mathlete host counties from 15 this year to 25 in 2019.
Going forward, it expects to hold contests in all 47 counties within the next two to three years – making Mathletes a truly national movement.
Mrs Sarah Suva, head of The Kenya High School mathematics department, already sees the Mathlete contest as a movement.
She observes that students who win awards in the contests assist their colleagues in class to understand maths concepts.
“Brookside is helping this country in a special way,” she says. “Hundreds of schools participate in this competition, interact and share skills. Brookside Mathlete also sharpens mathematics teachers, not just students.”
She adds: “When KCSE comes, our students use the skills they have acquired during Brookside Mathlete contests to perform well in the national examination.”
Nakuru Girls head of maths department concurs: “Participating in the contest is improving maths performance in our school,” says Mr Elijah Oira.
Therefore, to Masinde Muliro University don Prof Ondiek Owiti, Brookside should consider taking the Mathlete Competition to all schools in the country, as it has shown the potential to demystify mathematics, often seen as a complex subject.