The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) originated in 1963 when the first mathematics contest in Ontario was created by a group of secondary school teachers and was officially founded in 1995. Today, the CEMC has over 40 faculty and staff with hundreds of volunteers and is “the largest organization of its kind in Canada,” according to its website.
The CEMC website, which offers free math and computer science lessons for grades seven through 12, reached 10 million page views this school year, with approximately one-third of the views occurring during April. Comparatively, the website only had three million page views last year.
As schools turned to virtual learning due to the pandemic, “all of a sudden teachers and students and parents were trying to figure out how to work together to do education outside of the classroom,” Professor Ian VanderBurgh, Director of the CEMC, told CBC. “There’s been a ton of views and most of that is in Canada, but an interesting amount internationally too.”
Sukhnit Kandola, a first-year student in Biological Chemistry at the University of Toronto, was taking grade 12 Calculus and Vectors when schools closed in March. “My calculus teacher referred CEMC to me. I used it fairly often, usually after every couple of lessons or so. The website was intuitive and easy to navigate through. They provided instructional modules with supportive examples and multiple practice activities with step-by-step solutions. I was finally understanding mathematical concepts with ease. In fact, my calculus test scores jumped by 15 per cent after discovering CEMC.”
The CEMC website also provides students with interactive learning activities, while providing feedback. Professor VanderBurgh told CBC that this may have contributed to the increased time spent on the website.
Throughout the summer months, the upward trend of the CEMC’s website has continued. Professor VanderBurgh told CBC that web traffic on the site has been two to three times higher than it was last summer.
“It appears people are still out there using it, whether it be teachers thinking about the year ahead, maybe it’s parents helping kids reinforce some things to get ready for the fall,” Professor VanderBurgh told CBC.
Vikram, a first-year student in the Computer Science program used the CEMC this past summer to access the MTHEL 199 preparatory course. “All the content was very concise and clear,” Vikram said.
Atiya Aziz, a Mathematics and Business Administration student, also used the CEMC for the MTHEL 199 course and said she used the website quite frequently and found it useful. “I loved how there were alternative formats to learn the content because personally I learn better when I hear someone explain it to me, and that was offered by the resource as well as plain notes.”
Access to courseware is available year-round. The CEMC courseware and CEMC at Home program are both listed as resources by the Government of Ontario website for students to use at home during this time of virtual learning.
“I think first and foremost the CEMC really exists to support education and that is always how and why we make our decisions, however, I do know because we have had 10 million page views and 265 000 students do our competitions each year and one million students see our questions-of-the week, that people see the University of Waterloo as a resource and that is invaluable in itself,” Professor VanderBurgh said.
“It is important to show strength as a university and make connections early on with students,” Professor VanderBurgh said. He also said that if the university works hard to build good relationships with teachers and create a resource that they can use and trust, it will create positive relationships between students and the University of Waterloo.
Professor VanderBurgh also mentioned the CEMC’s visits to schools, prior to the pandemic, also helped in developing positive relationships between students and the university. “At a time when math and computer science are such important disciplines having those contacts are very important.”
More information can be found on the CEMC website.