Maths Book – the Culmination of Six Years of Work for Emeritus Professor

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Emeritus Professor Poobhalan Pillay of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS) has written an e-book, 1000 Mathematics Olympiad Problems, to help pupils from Grade 7 to Grade 12 improve their mathematics skills.

Compiled for the South African Mathematics Foundation (SAMF), Pillay spent more than 8 000 hours working on problems for the publication classified according to difficulty levels ranging from two to 10, making the work suitable for learners across multiple grades according to their ability.

Also designed for use by teachers, the book begins with tables in which problems and topics have been selected so that educators can choose examples for their lessons, which match the national Mathematics curriculum and supplement the standard textbook problems with others more challenging, to enhance the experience of learners.

A key resource for the national Mathematics Olympiad, the e-book’s higher-level problems cater for learners who have qualified for the SAMF’s Olympiad programmes.

Pillay said the cognitive range of the problems made the work suitable for a wide range of levels and capabilities, while the SAMF’s Executive Director Professor Kerstin Jordaan added that the inclusion of more challenging problems would enhance the problem-solving skills of learners.

Dean and Head of the SMSCS Professor Delia North praised Pillay for his admirable efforts, and indicated that the School would facilitate the production of videos based on the book for placement on the SMSCS website for access by Mathematics teachers.

‘He is a treasure to the Discipline of Mathematics, which he has served unselfishly for so many years, and should be celebrated,’ said North.

Pillay began his lecturing career in 1967 at the former University of Durban-Westville and retired from UKZN in 2006 after 40 years at the Institution. He is a national academic co-ordinator, regional co-ordinator and coach for the SAMF’s Siyanqoba Regional Olympiad Training Programme, providing training for Siyanqoba coaches. He has been involved in training teachers who train learners for Olympiad participation.

Books he has authored or co-authored include study guides for matriculants and a first-year university textbook. The book, available on the SAMF website:, will be provided to learners on the SAMF’s Siyanqoba Programme free of charge.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied