Putting in the hours of studying and finding fun in the mystery of maths helped Rondebosch Boys’ High matriculant Ziyaad Banderker to become the top maths pupil in the country with 100% for the subject.
The 18-year-old from Plattekloof was announced as the top maths pupil in the country by the Western Cape Education Department when the National Senior Certificate results were announced last month.
Anna Christina Kriel, from Rhenish Girls’ High School in Stellenbosch, took second place while Ruan Hermann Buhr, from Paul Roos Gimnasium in Stellenbosch, came third.
Ziyaad might have aced his exams, covering algebra, geometry, trigonometry and statistics, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing getting to the top in maths, he says.
“In Grade 8 and Grade 9, I wasn’t always in the top class in maths, I struggled to get an A. I guess I kept on working harder and harder to get in the top maths class.”
By Grade 10, he was in the top class, but it was a hard graft to get there, he says.
“I wasn’t sure whether I belonged in that class with all those talented pupils, though I kept on working harder and harder from Grade 10 to Grade 12 to push my mark over the 90%.”
Ziyaad’s preparation for his finals – going through past papers – started way before the mock matric exam in September last year. “It’s a lot of hours you put in, though if you practice – they can throw any questions at you – you will know how to solve it.”
Instead of simply crunching numbers, Ziyaad says it helped him to find enjoyment in maths and look for new ways to solve problems.
“It becomes boring when you look at it as just calculations, I looked at maths as a puzzle to solve.”
Ziyaad’s hard work extended to his other subjects too: he earned nine distinctions and a matric pass of 95%.
“It is an overwhelming feeling,” he says. “The last few weeks have been stressful waiting for results, though the hard work has paid off.”
He is grateful to his parents, his teachers and his classmates – with whom he had virtual study sessions – for their support.
“My teachers have been incredible; you develop a friendship with them. You can message them any time if you need their help.”
Ziyaad’s maths teacher, Susan Carletti, says it was a pleasure to have him in her class. “He was never satisfied with simply knowing how to answer a question; he always wanted to know the theory behind it,” she says.
School principal Shaun Simpson says Ziyaad has been part of a small group of top students competing for the top spot in maths and the grade over the past five years.
“The fact that he managed to hit the sweet spot just at the right time is a testament to his academic focus and determination,” he says.
When Ziyaad is not working on his academics, he enjoys going out for lunches with his friends, playing mini-golf and watching Formula One racing.
Ziyaad will be studying actuarial science at UCT.