Latin America

Life lessons from mathematics

Jee Y. Geronimo
Ronelio Barasi is among the 447 recipients of the 2014 Youth Excellence in Science Award from the Department of Science and Technology

FAST. 15-year-old Ronelio Barasi proves a statement by mathematical induction in less than 3 minutes. His mentor, Serafin Raymundo, looks on. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – What does it take to get a kid interested in mathematics? Simple, according to teacher Serafin Raymundo II: Link it to life experiences.

This was how he sparked Ronelio Barasi’s interest in mathematics.

On his first year in Dalandanan National High School in Valenzuela City, Ronelio found his new math teacher was teaching life lessons out of every mathematical equation.

“Negative plus negative is equals to a negative number,” he recalled Raymundo as teaching. “Kapag negative na yung nagawa mo tapos sinamahan mo pa ulit ng negative, yung kakalabasan po, negative.”

(If you’ve already done something negative and you add up another negative, the result will be negative.)

At a glance, there is a supply of negatives in Barasi’s life: a father who has not gone home for 5 years and a mother whose health restricts her from working for a living.

But he’s not giving any more room for any of these in his student life.

Last year, Barasi won silver and bronze medals in 3 international mathematics competitions dominated by representatives from the country’s private high schools and public science high schools.

On Wednesday, February 12, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) recognized him and 446 more students with the Youth Excellence in Science (YES) Award, an institutional award given every year to students who excelled in science and mathematics competitions in the international arena.

BIGGEST BATCH. This year, the Department of Science and Technology gives the YES Award to 447 students – the biggest batch in the award's history. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

Last year’s winners are the biggest batch in YES Awards history, Science Secretary Mario Montejo noted.

“International competitions are only bridges that will lead you to something bigger… Being talented is one thing, but using that talent for the benefit of the people is a more noble approach,” he told students during the awarding ceremonies.

It was a first for the public high school to qualify for and win in an international math competition – a dream of Dalandanan National High School since 2005.

“We really need to send a message that regular public schools can do it also,” Raymundo said.

Still, Raymundo admitted that teaching mathematics in a room of 50-65 students can be hard.

His secret weapon, though, is to make students appreciate the subject using fun, interactive games inside the classroom. “As long as they appreciate it, then eventually they will love and master it,” he said.

He firmly believes mathematics can change lives, and the change must start in schools. –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.