Kangaroo Math Competition

The Kangaroo Math Competition is an international mathematics competition that was founded by Andre Deledicq in 1991. It is one of the largest academic competitions in the world, with more than 6 million participants annually. Currently, it is organized under the aegis of Association Kangourou sans Frontières (AKSF) which is based in Paris.

From the official website http://www.aksf.org/:

Kangourou sans Frontières is an international association founded in France, which is formed by maths lovers from all over the world. Motivated by the importance of mathematics in the modern world, their passion is to spread the joy of mathematics, support mathematical education in school and promote a positive perception of mathematics in society. The main activity of Kangourou sans Frontières is designing the annual Kangaroo Mathematics Competition. Mathematical problems in multiple-choice form are offered to children of all school levels. The questions are not standard textbook problems and come from a large variety of topics. Besides inspiring ideas, perseverance and creativity, they require imagination, basic computational skills, logical thinking and other problem solving strategies. Often there are small stories, surprising questions and results, which encourage discussions with friends and family. The organisation of the competition in the individual countries is up to the members of Kangourou sans Frontières.

Malaysia started joining AKSF in 2012 when I was invited to the AGM that took place in Cyprus. I heard about AKSF for the first time through a good friend, the late Dr. Buras Boljiev, who was already a member. I then applied to the AKSF Board and got promptly approved and invited to attend the AGM (the fact that I’ve been involved in the mathematics competition scene for many years through the IMO seems to help). After the Cyprus meeting, Malaysia was accepted as a provisional member, and 3 years later, after running three successful Kangaroo contests, Malaysia was awarded full membership in the AKSF.

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The AKSF logo

Currently, I am the national representative to the AKSF, but I have not been attending the annual meeting since 2017 due to various work and personal commitments. My team members Faiz Ismail and Aidel Salleh attended the two most recent meetings on my behalf.

The Kangaroo competition takes place simultaneously among all participating countries, on the third Thursday of March every year. As the date usually coincides with the Malaysian mid-term school holidays, we normally schedule the Kangaroo to take place one week after the global Kangaroo dates.

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The Kangaroo contest is decentralized, meaning that there is no venue where all the students take it at the same time. Instead, the contests are organized separately at all participating schools in Malaysia, each invigilated by a teacher.

The Kangaroo contest has been growing rapidly in Malaysia; from 10,000 participants in the first edition in 2013 to more than 40,000 participants in 2019, representing more than 1600 schools around the country. All types of schools participate — national / national-type schools, private schools, international schools, matriculation colleges, even tuition centers, and individual candidates.

The philosophy of Kangaroo is to create a fun and engaging way for students to develop their problem-solving abilities in mathematics, as well as popularizing the subject among schoolchildren in Malaysia. The contest is designed to emphasize the fun and educational aspect of mathematical problem solving, not the competitive aspect (though we award medals to the winners). It is not similar to “math olympiad” type contests where the goal is to outperform other students to get to the next level.

There is no “second round” in the global Kangaroo contest — students are supposed to be awarded based on their performance and are to be congratulated for their efforts through mathematical activities and conferences that bring together students and teachers for the sake of their love of mathematics. However, Malaysian students being competitive as they are, there were lots of demands for a further level of competition among the Kangaroo winners. We experimented with the concept for the first time in 2019, to a positive response.

The Kangaroo Malaysia paper is quite special in that it is the only quadrilingual mathematics paper in the country. It is provided in Bahasa Melayu, English, Mandarin, and Tamil (for Tamil primary school students only).

The competition is divided into 6 categories:

  • Pre-Ecolier (Year 1-2)
  • Ecolier (Year 3-4)
  • Benjamin (Year 5-6)
  • Cadet (Form 1-2)
  • Junior (Form 3-4)
  • Student (Form 5-6, or equivalent).

The names of the categories follow the original categories from the French competition. The Malaysian Kangaroo paper doesn’t differ much from the original papers provided by AKSF; only the languages are different. Even the names in the paper (mostly European names, since the problems were proposed by European composers) are left intact and did not get changed into Malaysianized names.

What makes the Kangaroo contest special is that it is part of something bigger, not merely an academic quiz or contest with no overarching objective. Kangaroo is a global grassroots movement to promote mathematics education, with the contest being the flagship program (it attracts close to 7 million participants every year). There are many mathematics programs such as summer camps, conferences, and exchange programs that are organized by member countries, as a follow up to the contest. The main idea of Kangaroo is to make children around the world love mathematics.

The Kangaroo is endorsed by the Ministry of Education, and participants are eligible for PAJSK marks, which are awarded to national school students for co-curricular activities. We are glad that the Ministry has collaborated with Kangaroo Malaysia to bring the Kangaroo objectives closer to being realized.

The next Kangaroo Malaysia contest will take place on 26 March 2020. To get more info, and to participate, visit our official website http://kangaroomath.com.my/

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My visit to the French Kangourou HQ in 2015. This is where it all started. At the left side is Andre Deledicq, the founder of Kangaroo Math and to the right is Jean-Philippe Deledicq, Andre’s son and AKSF board member

 

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