Aurora Magazine

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A high-tech, high-energy math adventure

Published in Nov-Dec 2017
DAWN and EDeQUAL have launched a new competition in Pakistan under the umbrella of the DAWN in Education Programme.

According to Alif Ailaan’s report Powering Pakistan for the 21st Century, schools in Pakistan are producing students with alarmingly low levels of learning in key subjects such as mathematics and the sciences. An oft-cited reason for this is that students consider maths boring, irrelevant and a difficult subject.

To address this issue, DAWN and EDeQUAL joined hands to launch a new competition in Pakistan called Math Challenge under the umbrella of the DAWN in Education Programme.

Since debuting 19 years ago, DAWN in Education (the only newspaper-in-education programme in Pakistan), has been working with schools, educators and students to help bridge the gap between schools and their communities by promoting civic literacy among children. Through this initiative, the newspaper aims to inculcate newspaper reading habits in young people and in turn develop an affinity for the brand. Over the years, DAWN has organised several programmes under this banner, including conferences, seminars, phonetics workshops and, perhaps the most prominent of all – the Spelling Bee.


The Maths Challenge aims to strengthen the mathematical reasoning and analytical capabilities of children, foster a love of the subject and identify untapped math talent in Pakistan.


According to Niloufer Patel, Director Circulation, DAWN, the success of the Spelling Bee over the course of 13 years has engendered various conversations both within the newspaper and among scholastic circles that the initiative be expanded in some form or another. Then in 2015, DAWN and EDeQUAL – an education technology company that uses technology-enabled learning methodologies (rather than usual schoolroom methods) to help students improve their grasp of maths and science – began talking about a collaboration. The outcome was the Math Challenge.

According to Ameen Jan, CEO, EDeQUAL, “mathematics are fundamentally about problem solving and analysis; they are among the most important skills students will need in their future careers. The Maths Challenge aims to strengthen the mathematical reasoning and analytical capabilities of children, foster a love of the subject and identify untapped math talent in Pakistan.”

Elaborating further, Patel says that the competition will assist students in making their own decisions and work as part of a team. “We want to instil core values in these children, which will help them step into their future with integrity and confidence.”

The Math Challenge will begin in January 2018 and end in March 2018. According to Patel, the initial challenges included selecting the appropriate time for the competition. “We wanted to ensure that a maximum number of schools participated and we had to be careful that the timing did not (in any way) clash with an examination period.” Another challenge was designing a quiz list while keeping in mind that two education systems prevail in Pakistan; one is O-level and the other is Matric, and there are immense differences in both curriculums.

Competing in three groups – Group 1 (classes 5 and 6), Group 2 (classes 7 and 8) and Group 3 (classes 9 and 10) – children from schools in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar will test their mathematical skills against one another. There will be four knockout rounds. The first round will be conducted within the premises of each participating school. Students will take an online quiz in their computer lab, and the scores of all participating students will be tallied to calculate the school score. In order to advance to the second round, the school score should not be less than 3,500.


The students will be using the latest technology systems (which include devices and tablets) to solve the quiz, it is important that they develop their analytical and problem-solving skills prior to participating in the competition.


In the second round, qualifying schools will compete against each other in a pool-based competition that will run parallel in all four cities. Teams that qualify for the third round will have a face off against one another in the regional rounds to compete for the regional champions. Finally, the 12 best teams across the four cities will proceed to the final round that will be held in Karachi, where a team from both groups will emerge as the national math champion.

The emphasis of the competition is on ‘conceptual understanding’ rather than rote learning. As part of this initiative, the Math Challenge team will also organise orientation seminars for teachers to familiarise them with the technology and prep their students accordingly.

Jan points out that as the students will be using the latest technology systems (which include devices and tablets) to solve the quiz, it is important that they develop their analytical and problem-solving skills prior to participating in the competition.

To promote the Math Challenge, DAWN and EDeQUAL are currently using two platforms – digital and print – and there are plans to go for radio and TV later. The website (www.mathchallenge.pk) was designed by DAWN’s in-house creative department and features details about the competition and how to register. The website also offers online assessments for students so that they can practise their math skills.

Speaking about the response, Patel says that the determining factor in gauging the success will be the number of schools that will participate. “We hope that not only the schools but parents as well will support this initiative and we will see a maximum number of participation from the children.”