700 students from 115 Irish schools sign up for €20k MATHletes challenge
Minister for Training and Skills Ciaran Cannon with tech entrepreneur Sean O'Sullivan

700 students from 115 Irish schools sign up for €20k MATHletes challenge

17 Feb 2014

Since registrations opened on 1 February, the first 17 days have seen more than 700 students from 115 schools covering 24 Irish counties sign up for MATHletes Challenge 2014.

Launched in late January by tech entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan and the Minister for Training and Skills Ciaran Cannon, the national maths tournament has caught the attention of educators, parents, and students from Wexford to Donegal and Laois to Kerry.

Based on the Khan Academy method of teaching and learning maths, MATHletes compete as individuals or with their schools for the championship title and a piece of the €20,000 prize fund. 

Founded in 2006 by the American educator Sal Khan, the Khan Academy is a leader in free online maths education. With more than 10m users per month and 4m practice problems solved each day, the Khan Academy had been successful in accomplishing its mission to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere”.

The West is awake

Galway primary schools lead signups for their Division of the Schools Challenge, and Galway schools have the overall highest participation rate based on the total number of schools in the county.

Galway students have signed up at a rate more than 2.5 times more per capita than the next highest county, Carlow.

While Connaught has the greatest per capita rate of student participation, Leinster just edges them into second place for the most overall students at 40pc of the total. While Munster follows with 26pc of entrants, there have been impressive gains from Cork in the last few days, spurred on by new secondary school signups.

Ulster (drawing students from Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal) makes up just 1pc of signups.

In the Schools Challenge, Dublin may lead in the most overall secondary schools signed up (12), but their participation rate of 6.6pc pales in comparison to Meath and Tipperary, where 1 in 5 secondary schools are signed up for the MATHletes Challenge. The race is tight at the top of the Primary Division signups, with Leinster leading with 37pc, followed by Munster with 33pc. 

Open to students in 5th and 6th class in primary school and 1st to 3rd years in secondary school, there is a 56pc to 44pc split between the number of secondary school students and primary school students entered.

A Khan-do spirit

The brainchild of O’Sullivan and supported by the Department of Education and Skills and National Education Centres across Ireland, O’Sullivan said: “Just two weeks into the challenge, it is becoming clear that we can use Khan Academy as an effective tool and motivator to transform how students learn maths.  

“Most importantly, we see kids getting hooked on the MATHletes Challenge, and having fun. There is a real sense of momentum behind the competition, with thousands more students expected to sign up over the coming weeks.” 

O’Sullivan is also managing director of SOSventures International, which boasted returns averaging 27pc over the past 15 years. His first company, MapInfo, grew to a US$200m public company. Among his successful investments to date are Netflix, which just announced 1m users in Ireland and the UK in its first year, and Harmonix, creator of Guitar Hero.

Students and teachers are reminded to sign up now and start competing in MATHletes: the earlier a student signs up, the more time he or she to gain points in the competition. 

Disclosure: SOSventures is an investor in Silicon Republic

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist. He joined Silicon Republic in 2002 to become the fulcrum of the company’s news service He was recipient of the Irish Internet Association’s NetVisionary Technology Journalist Award 2005 and Siliconrepublic.com has been awarded ‘Best Technology Site’ at the Irish Web Awards seven times. In 2011 he received the David Manley Award commending him for his dedication to covering entrepreneurs. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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