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Burnaby teacher gets North American award for motivating mathletes

Moscrop Secondary School math teacher Danny Young has been recognized with an Edyth May Sliffe Award for 'outstanding work to motivate students in mathematics.'
Moscrop Secondary students show off hardware won at the Math Challengers provincial round last year.

It’s no surprise Burnaby math teacher Danny Young would be picked to receive an Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished Mathematics Teaching.

The American awards were set up to recognize teachers who have done "outstanding work to motivate students in mathematics" by participating in contests put on by the Mathematical Association of America, and Young is clearly jazzed about nurturing students' love of the subject.

He exudes enthusiasm describing the strong math culture that has taken root at Moscrop Secondary School over the last few years.

"We have, like, 70 kids in the library every week after school from 3 p.m. to almost 5 p.m. doing math at a very high level," he told the NOW in a recent phone interview. "We're not doing one problem; we're talking about, every week 10, 15 problems at a high level. We've had kids in Grade 10 working with Grade 12s, Grade 11s, and they're just communicating, collaborating, sharing. They love math."

Their passion shows in the school's results in math competitions in Canada and the U.S.

Moscrop is currently in first place in the Canadian National Mathematics League.

The school came fourth in the University of Waterloo's Canadian Senior Math Contest and the Canadian Intermediate Math Contest this year.

In 2023, Moscrop scored first in B.C. in the Fryer Math Competition for Grade 9 students.

At the American Mathematics Competition, four Moscrop students scored in the top five per cent and advanced to the next round to write the American International Mathematics Examination.

For Young, however, the competitions aren't about status but rather about exposing students to problems they've never seen before and forcing them to think on their feet.

He didn't get that kind of exposure when he was a student.

"As a teacher, knowing there's these opportunities, I feel so obligated," he said.  

While Young was singled out for the Edyth May Sliffe Award this year (he was the only Canadian on the list), he says the credit for Moscrop's thriving math culture goes to the math teachers and students he works with.

"They believe math is cool, math is useful," Young said of his students, "You know how some people think it's nerdy to do math? It's not like that here."

Follow Cornelia Naylor on X/Twitter @CorNaylor