Mar. 06, 2017

The Knesset’s Education and Culture Committee heaped praise on Ben-Gurion University’s Kidumatica project, headed by Prof. Miriam (Miri) Amit, lauding everything from the worldview underlying its inception to its huge success in helping the Negev’s talented youth break through socio-economic barriers. Most of all, the committee emphasized the importance that Kidumatica students “don’t just calculate, they cogitate!” In other words, Kidumatica’s focus is on teaching its students how to think.

Pictured above:  Prof. Miriam Amit (second from the left), Mr.Leonid Girshkin and the Kidumatica students Adi Yifroimski, Nir Alfasi and Chail Elnekave during their visit to the Knesset.

During a recent session, the Education and Culture Committee invited Prof. Miri Amit for an in-depth discussion of “Kidumatica – The Mathematics Youth Club for Excellence and Creativity” as a successful model for the promotion of excellence and equity. The idea of inviting Amit and her team to present the project was suggested by MK Eli Elaluf, Chair of the Knesset’s Welfare, Employment and Health Committee, who has known about and held the project in high esteem for years, dating back to his tenure as the head of the Rashi Foundation.

The fact that Ben-Gurion University, which has dedicated itself to the promotion of excellence, hosts the project on the university campus itself, was particularly appreciated by the members of the committee. Elaluf also emphasized the diversity of Kidumatica’s student body, which represents the full range of the Negev’s highly varied population. The Chair of the Committee, Knesset Member Oded Forer, praised the project’s approach of not “rushing headlong” towards matriculation, since Kidumatica students will achieve full five-point matriculation in mathematics anyway with the tools provided for them by the program. Much more than just helping these students do better in school, these tools provide the students with useful skills like logical thinking, introduce them to new scientific fields and encourage them to develop their creativity. “This is exactly what the State of Israel needs to keep up with international standards,” Forer emphasized. The committee members also praised Kidumatica’s role as a social “melting pot” for Israel’s Southern Region.

In addition to Prof. Amit, Kidumatica was represented at the committee meeting by Mr. Leonid Girshkin, the program’s academic coordinator, who presented the committee members with his personal vision and how it is implemented in Kidumatica’s day-to-day. Also present were  students Chail Elnekave, an 11th grader from Netivot who is currently in her sixth year of participation in the program, Nir Alfasi, an 8th grader who has been in Kidumatica for four years, and Adi Yifroimski, a 7th grader who is now in his third year. Finally, the meeting was attended by representatives from the Council for Higher Education, the teachers’ union, the local authorities and the Ministry of Education, all of whom added to the program’s praise and made recommendations for expanding it throughout the country. Prof. Amit concluded her remarks by saying, “Kidumatica is constructive proof that the social equation can be changed, and we will continue to work towards the promotion of equity and excellence.” 

Kidumatica was founded 19 years ago by Prof. Amit, with the help of the Rashi Foundation and its then-Head, Eli Elaluf. Every year, over 550 students participate in Kidumatica, 90 of them Bedouin students. The program is designed to provide its students with an opportunity for long-term learning, and some of its students have been participating and progressing continuously for several years. Prof. Amit said, “It is important to emphasize that about 40% of the project’s participants are girls, which is particularly noteworthy in light of the fact that relatively few girls turn towards mathematical and scientific pursuits. To join Kidumatica, applicants must complete entrance exams, and the demand far outstrips the number of available spots. This year over 1200 applicants from throughout the Negev area competed for just 250 places for beginners.”

Activities take place twice a week on the university campus. Students from 100 (!) different schools throughout the Negev are brought to the university on buses (most of them funded by donations) from 30 different towns and settlements in Israel’s Southern Region.

In the years since its inception, Kidumatica’s students have won prizes in a variety of national and international competitions; its graduates have gone on to serve in the elite cyber and intelligence units of the IDF, and to swell the ranks of academic excellence at Ben-Gurion University. Some graduates have even come back to Kidumatica to serve as mentors for the next generation of students, and thus keep the Kidumatica family going strong.   

It is worth noting that Kidumatica enjoys the full support of the university, and particularly that of its president, Prof. Rivka Carmi, who follows the program’s activities closely and participates in its ceremonies and conferences.

Kidumatica also provides fertile ground for generating new research on the topic of mathematics education and excellence. It has been the basis for numerous Masters and Doctoral theses, and won international recognition at academic conferences in this field.