By Tyrone Burke
Photos by Chris Roussakis

“I’m not an expert on a Rubik’s Cube myself, and I know that there are some experts in this room,” says Yuly Billig.

“But I still think there are couple of things that I can teach you…”

In a whir of chalk dust and sliding blackboards, the professor and director of Carleton’s Math Enrichment Centre is demonstrating how to use algebra to solve a Rubik’s cube to students in his MathLink 9-10 enriched math course.

One of them – already an expert at the challenging puzzle – sits in the front row paying rapt attention, pausing periodically to quickly scramble and unscramble a Rubik’s cube he’s brought with him to class.

He’s one of about 600 Ottawa-area students enrolled in courses at the Math Enrichment Centre – and one of about 30 who have turned out for this Wednesday evening class in the Tory Building.

The initiative of the School of Mathematics and Statistics offers enrichment courses for students in grades 3 to 12 who are excelling at school. Courses cover more advanced material for each grade level — from a grade 3 to 4 Math Adventures program to a Grade 11 to 12 Foundations of Calculus course to prepare students for university.

Mastering Math

Delving Deeper Than the Standard Curriculum

At all levels, the centre’s instructors are mathematicians with the academic background needed to answer tough theoretical questions that might stump some schoolteachers.

“We typically go much deeper than the Ontario school curriculum,” Billig says.

“The courses are rather challenging for the students, and we’d like to keep it this way.”

This rigorous approach helps prepare students for demands of post-secondary studies. Students educated in the Ontario curriculum can lack some math skills that are critical in STEM disciplines. (science, technology, engineering and math).

“We see this in the area of trigonometry,” says Billig, noting that a solid foundation in the subject is especially important for aspiring engineers.

“The way that trigonometry is taught in high school is a weak spot in the Ontario curriculum. Students are often not ready for university courses, and we have a course that tries to put their knowledge on a solid basis.”

Mastering Math

Ensuring Students are Sufficiently Challenged

Supported by an Endowment Grant from the Canadian Mathematical Society, the Math Enrichment Centre focuses primarily on the study of math, but also has offerings in physics, computer algorithms and computer programming. The MathLink 9-10 course is free, but other courses have a registration fee that can be waived for families in financial need. In all of its offerings, the Math Enrichment Centre invites students who are excelling to tackle a new challenge.

Grade 7 student Ray Wang is doing exactly that. He’s enrolled in an enriched high school course at the centre.

“The math here is a lot more interesting than at school,” Wang says.

“You get to go into a lot more detail. At school, the math lessons are short and they’re boring.”

Ensuring that bright young students like Wang are sufficiently challenged is rewarding for course instructors, but it also serves a broader purpose.

“We have amazing students,” Billig says.

“It’s important to nurture their talent, and we are very happy to see how they grow. Math is very important for the future of our economy. The high tech industry is math intensive and it’s important that there are young people with excellent knowledge of mathematics. This is important for the country.”

Learn more about the Math Enrichment Centre’s course offerings. Contact the centre via email at:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 in
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