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Get to know the 2016 NLNW Numeracy Ambassadors

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Simon Pampena

Simon Pampena

Simon has been the Numeracy Ambassador for NLNW since 2009. He is known as the ‘Maths Man’ and has captured the minds and imaginations of many with his ability to combine mathematics with comedy! 

For National Literacy and Numeracy Week this year Simon combined sport and statistics and created the activity Who Won It?

We asked Simon about his favourite subject at school, what inspired him to get involved in maths, why it is important and for a tip to engage students in maths. 

What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subjects at school were science and creative writing. I liked maths too but only in the process of learning how the universe worked. I saw a strong connection between science and creative writing. They both inspired my imagination and took me on mental adventures. The work I do today is really a synthesis of these two childhood passions.

What inspired you to get involved in mathematics? Why is it important?

I was interested in science fiction from a very young age. Star Wars was to blame! But my interest in science fiction was soon replaced with a fascination for science fact. One of my teachers explained E = mc² to me using algebra that I had learned in class. I was then able to prove to myself that mass is equivalent to energy. I was blown away. The most famous equation in history and I could understand it! It was from that point on that I really got into maths.

Being numerate is as important as being literate. I see the biggest benefit of being numerate is the ability to solve problems. Mathematics is really the art of problem solving and the better Australia is at problem solving, the better our future will be.

What is your number one tip for ensuring kids enjoy learning maths?

The best tip for learning maths is to allow time for failure. Believe it or not, maths is difficult for everybody so if you're having trouble getting something, you're not alone. Don't be hard on yourself if you don't get something the first time. Also, studying maths is naturally going to be harder than studying reading and writing since in Australia we use English to communicate all the time... albeit our own version of English! Maths is just as complicated as English but requires time to be as fluent at it.

Adam Spencer

Adam Spencer

Adam is an Australian comedian, media personality and author. A lifelong numbers nerd, his mathematics books include Adam Spencer’s Big Book of Numbers and Adam Spencer’s World of Numbers.

We asked Adam about learning maths, tips for engaging children in maths and why it is important.

What inspired you to get involved in mathematics?

I loved mathematics from the moment I first tried it at school. I used to enjoy getting really competitive with my maths. It was me against the problems. If the teacher set us 10 questions, but there were 50 in the book, I’d do all 50. If I got 49 correct, I’d be more emotional about the 1 I got wrong than the other 49 put together. I was pretty hard core in how much I loved my maths!!!

What was your favourite subject at school?

I really liked maths - and also maths - I also liked maths - and I was pretty good at maths too.

What is your number one tip for ensuring kids enjoy learning maths?

Maths is everywhere around us. You don’t step out of the real world and into the maths world then back. I get my daughters to work out how much lunch will cost at a cafe and they can keep the change if they get it right. What time do we need to leave to get to the football on time? How many smarties do you guess are in this box? Those sort of things make maths real.

How important is maths in our day to day lives?

This century will be built by mathematicians. Computer coders, app designers, data analysts, statisticians, it’s all mathematics. The future of curing cancer is as much about mathematics as it is genetics or chemistry.

Get on board the maths bus because it’s going to be a wild ride!

Visit the numeracy section on the website to check out the great numeracy activities for 2016.