“The math faculty has always valued outreach into the high schools and it has received a huge return on it.”
Waterloo is leading the way in attracting math students aided by the work done at the Centre for Education in Math and Computing (CEMC).
The centre connects annually with more than 200,000 high school students through its popular math contests and online support. CEMC also holds workshops for high school math and computer science teachers and annual seminars for students across Canada. In total, the CEMC reaches about 450,000 students from Grade 4 to 12 and 10,000 teachers every year.
CEMC director Ian VanderBurgh says this program is “one of the reasons this faculty is so successful. The math faculty has always valued outreach into the high schools and it has received a huge return on it.”
Even Bill Gates has endorsed the centre for its work in connecting to prospective students. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave the CEMC $12.5 million in 2008 to continue and expand its enrichment programs locally and around the world.
While the CEMC is developing contacts globally, encouraging young women to enter the field is a frontier closer to home.
CEMC’s annual Seminars in Computer Science for Young Women, held on campus for Grade 9 and 10 students across Canada, are one strategy for getting girls on board. Participants spend a week in enrichment activities, discovering that computer science is more than just programming and software.
Daisy Dawe, from Newfoundland, attended the computer seminar and found it one of the most stimulating activities of her high school career. “I learned more in a week,” she says, “than I would have in months at high school.”