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Returning Maths Camp Students

Bahir Dar University Maths Camp Alumni

Lilita leading a programming session


"I wanted to help others benefit from the camp like I did and I wanted to get more out of it too"

Lilita Getnet Yenew

Tell us about your experience in this maths camp as a returning student.

The 2 weeks I spent as a facilitator were very tiring, yet very rewarding. When I took part in math camp as a student in 2019, I definitely did enjoy every single part of it and I believe it had a big impact on many different aspects of my life, but I never really got to see the "behind the scenes”. So when I came back as a returning student, the immense amount of care that goes into every single step from preparing the lesson plans and materials for every session to making sure the participating students have a pleasant stay was a bit surprising for me.

During the 8th BDU math camp this year, I volunteered to take part in assisting lecturers in guiding students to fully comprehend the problems they were given, come up with solutions for them, and understand the mathematical principles behind them. I was a part of the team that prepared daily puzzles and game nights intended to teach various concepts enjoyably, and I also got to prepare a treasure hunt with my fellow facilitator friend.

All of these tasks challenged our decision-making skills, coordination & leading abilities, and flexibility when faced with unexpected situations(The summer rain here in Bahir dar definitely didn't make our jobs easier, I can tell you that ). I believe the responsibility has honed us into a better version of ourselves. However, I personally would say preparing & leading my own session was the largest surreal moment throughout the camp. When asked if I wanted any lessons of my own, I was very hesitant and scared. But I'm quite glad I took the plunge because it gave me the opportunity to do things that never really felt within my reach, or "adult stuff" as I like to call them. Familiarizing myself with how I was supposed to plan out my lesson, allocating my time properly, preparing exercises that would be a good match for the diverse group of students with different levels of skills I was presented with, and creating an interactive classroom atmosphere where everyone could unashamedly ask, participate and have fun was an uphill struggle. Nevertheless, it has equipped me with much. The satisfaction I got when my students completed their assignments with quality that was beyond anyone's expectations is something I will always aim to achieve in any of my future endeavors.

What was your experience from the first maths camp and why did you decide to come back as a returning student?

I can, without any reservations, say that math camp was one of the few events I took part in that shifted my perspective. Prior to taking part in math camp, I was of the belief that math was inherently unenjoyable. I have always loved math, but I never would have used the word “fun” to express it had it not been for math camp. I think that is one of the biggest attributes of the program. Another one that I think needs to be talked about more is how an intense week of problem solving and learning conduces to change in your social skills.

It made me “come out of my shell”. I never dared to walk up to a stranger and befriend them or shout at the top of my lungs to celebrate the victory of my team. During my stay in math camp, however, these things seemed very commonplace. I approached others freely, asked if I could sit with them, and cracked jokes that were, honestly speaking, of debatable comic value. I ran, jumped, and chanted with our facilitators during our physical activity sessions, contrary to my usual reserved demeanor. And in the process, I gained a lot of friends with different upbringings and values. Their passion fueled my drive. The way these people relentlessly worked towards their goals made me more ambitious. I was able to connect with brilliant minds that encouraged me to dream bigger through math camp.

The knowledge, confidence, and friendships I gained spiked up my interest in coming back as a returning student even before I finished my week as a participant. I wanted to help others benefit from the camp like I did and I wanted to get more out of it too. I’m hopeful our students got to benefit from it as much as we did.

Any suggestions for improvements of the maths camps, what things would you like to see more of?

I don’t think there’s anything that I would want to see improved. I just hope it keeps on growing and becoming more accessible.

What would you tell anyone interested in participating in a math camp?

Do it! I can’t say enough good things about it. It will definitely be more than you expected it to be and you will gain so much. If you do end up participating, actively engage with everyone. Ask questions on whatever you have doubts about. Attempt every challenge/question that comes your way. Research more about the things you learn there, socialize, and have fun.

Where are you now and what are your future plans?

I’m currently awaiting the Ethiopian university entrance examination after completing my high school career. I don’t have my heart set on a specific field, but I plan on majoring in a STEM field and hopefully playing my part in aiding Ethiopia and other African countries in having a larger role in STEM in the international arena.

What did you find most memorable? How have the maths camps impacted you?

Like I mentioned in the previous questions, math camp has had an extensive impact on me in terms of how I viewed maths, how I interacted with others, and my future plans. It made me more tenacious, curious, and sociable. It is very hard to pick the most memorable moments, but some of them would be our cryptography session and trying to decipher another team’s message to us, our little “cultural exchanges “ as we chatted with our international facilitators about our respective countries over meals or as they tried to sing and dance along to Amharic songs during our trip and everyone’s enthusiasm when it came to learning something new and solving puzzles.

As a returning student, math camp has made me responsible, resourceful, and passionate about teaching. I was able to foster a different kind of friendship with the students from the ones I created 2 years ago. The most memorable moments would be our team of facilitators getting caught in the rain while looking for spots for our treasure hunt, the beaming faces of our students whenever we gave them a hint on how to solve a problem, and leading my own session.