Animath

The development of maths clubs in Africa

An agreement between the Animath association and Campus France gives a new impetus to extracurricular mathematics.

Africa needs to train scientific staff able to adapt to the new economy based on digital technology, communications and innovation. They must be able to adapt research and discoveries in science and technology to the needs of their countries. If this does not happen, the continent will fall behind structurally in these areas necessary for its development.

In this context, mathematics and computer science play an important role. This is the purpose of the Mathematics Club Project, which Animath has been running since the beginning of 2019 in several French-speaking countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with the support of Campus France.

More than twenty years of experience

Animath is a French association, created in 1998 with the help of the Société Mathématique de France to promote the development of extracurricular activities in mathematics. The diversity of operations currently being implemented can be found at www.animath.fr

In particular, Animath has developed a mathematics club activity for high school students. In these clubs, high school students work in groups of 4 to 6 on non-trivial subjects, requiring sometimes long but exciting reflection.

The appropriation of mathematics

Put in a situation that promotes and enhances his inventiveness, free from the fear of "saying something stupid", integrated into a work team, a student can unlock his attitude of passivity towards mathematics. He can then appropriate the mathematics he discovers, with the help of mathematicians who are both passionate about their fields and experienced in this relationship with students.

Many of the "animathors" are young mathematicians, doctoral students or engineers, who have themselves been members of a club, or who have participated in other Animath activities during their schooling.

Transforming tests

Several hundred such clubs exist in France, often with the involvement of active scientists. Some of them, supported by Animath, have been created in recent years in several other countries, particularly in Africa. Each year an intensive one-week session is organised in the country for participants from these clubs. It is supervised by the "animathors", who come from France.

We believe that if these few clubs spread more widely, as is currently emerging, then the challenge of creating a greater interest in science and technology in Africa, for high school students, boys and girls, will be won. Our Congolese colleagues in Kinshasa, who have already created 14 high school clubs, are considering about 50 in the country in the next three to five years.

The support of Campus France

In order to support this expansion movement, Animath and Campus France, which is represented in every French embassy, signed an agreement in September 2018.

The aims of the project are to:

  • promote the scientific development of the African countries concerned by helping to bring out groups of motivated high school students for future higher scientific studies;
  • boost mathematics teaching in these countries and give extracurricular activities a strong research and innovation component;
  • encourage interest in studying in France or in French-speaking courses with African high school and university students motivated by mathematics or computer science;
  • develop the Francophone dimension by helping to create a Francophone network of participants and former participants (students and teachers) of the clubs set up;
  • motivate young African girls for scientific studies. And to do so, we must move towards gender parity in high school clubs.

First sessions for high school students

After the creation of teams of French and African animathors, the first high school sessions were organized from March to October 2019. Each lasted a week. With 35 hours of animation for 12 to 130 high school students, plus a daily and final report with the local team.

Seven countries are currently involved: Senegal (Dakar), Burkina Faso (Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou), Cameroon (Douala), Côte d'Ivoire (Abidjan), Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), and Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). A session is planned for early 2020 in Benin (Institute of Mathematics and Physical Sciences). Mali will be associated at a distance and its "animathors" may be hosted during sessions organized in neighbouring countries.

The high school clubs will be in place when the high schools start school. If the forecasts are verified, more than 40 clubs are expected. The next sessions are scheduled for March 2020.

Encourage university cooperation

In this strategy we also hope to promote the return of skills from the African scientific diaspora. This is already well underway, thanks to the active presence in the teams of animathors already composed of four mathematicians of African origin working in French universities. They are involved in the remote monitoring of these African clubs and in the implementation of the on-site sessions.

Finally, Animath being in close contact with universities in France can also serve as a relay to help implement Franco-African scientific cooperation in mathematics and computer science.

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In charge for international relationships for Animath

 

Main elements of the "Animath Club Charter" in Africa

Aims :

  • Develop a taste for mathematics, and the search for new problems.
  • Prepare students for national and international mathematics competitions.
  • Encourage the involvement of high school students in scientific fields.

Operation :

  • The high school club meets regularly to solve mathematical problems.
  • There must be about as many girls as boys.
  • The club is supervised by local teachers and by French doctoral students at a distance.
  • The spirit is that of a research seminar rather than that of a class.
  • Small group work is encouraged.

Intensive session :

At least once a year, the club organizes an intensive one-week session (35 hours) for a wider audience, supervised in collaboration with Animath.

Networking :

Animath makes its experience and its own tools available to clubs, and hopes to be able to network them soon on a web platform.

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