Tuesday, April 30, 2013


By GABRIEL LAHOC - The National, April 8
THE PNG University of Technology (Unitech) last Friday celebrated the launch of the South Pacific Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics produced by its Mathematics and Computer Science Department.

Photo: Editor-in-chief and lecturer Dr Kenneth Nwabueze (left) and Mathematics and Computer Science acting head of department John Lanta looking on as Unitech acting vice-chancellor Dr John Pumwa cuts the ribbon to officially launch the journal. - Picture by GABRIEL LAHOC, The National

The journal is also the first in the South Pacific region to be reviewed and indexed in all major mathematics data base.

The first copies of the journals have been sent to other university libraries in PNG with plans for major university libraries around the world.

“I’m very proud of the department. It’s a big achievement for the department and Unitech, despite all the problems faced by the university you produced a journal which will be used in the international arena,” Unitech acting vice-chancellor Dr John Pumwa said.

He challenged all other departments to follow the example of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department.

The journal’s editor-in-chief Dr Kenneth Nwabueze thanked the department and others involved in the production of the journal.

“This is only the start, we have a big job ahead to sustain this journal,” he said.

He added that the journal would publish high quality original research paper, survey papers, expository papers and research announcements describing new results with selection for publication based on reports from referees commissioned by its editorial board.

Head of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department John Lanta added that the milestone achievement would enhance research and inspire other departments which relied on Mathematics to publish their own journals.


DESPITE the rain in the evening and night yesterday, today it was sunny and fine in Port Moresby. Having to get to the workplace quickly because I had a good number of things to do, I flagged down a taxi and took that 4km ride. As we were travelling along a certain part of the neighbourhood, we saw some kids throwing empty soft drink cans onto the road to be flattened by the tyres of vehicles travelling along.
I commented on how an old-time driver for Ela Motors (Wewak) once told me about the old days when nothing … and he meant nothing … was thrown onto public roads – and that included grass cut from the road side.

I remember him telling me that when the Australians were running the country (before Independence in 1975), roads were kept free from any object or substance. I did my own thinking and deduced that the bits and pieces of rubbish thrown onto the road could, in the long run, ruin the road, and would cost taxpayers millions of kina.

Photo: Another view of Port Moresby down town on a weekday. - Picture taken by an Aussie friend

Well, one comment about this and that led the driver to tell me about “bad” police officers collecting road fines and applying the money to their own use. 
The cab driver questioned the police officers on some of those occasions: “Why do you people cheat us taxi drivers and others and collect those fines only to pocket them?”

Most of the officers never had much to say except: “The money we collect, we never take home to our families. We use it without their knowledge.”

The cab driver said he knew that those who took the money home to be shared by their family members were really cursing their families. “It is cursed money,” he said.

I made a parallelism to politicians. I said: “The money they steal from the public coffers and use it to benefit their family only brings a curse on them. Sure they can fare well for years or decades. But watch and you will see the curse coming. And sadly, it will be their children or grandchildren who will live with the fruits of the curse long after the politicians disappear.”

Sunday, April 28, 2013


THE Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce was here in PNG for the ANZAC Day celebrations last week.

Picture: Australian GG Quentin Bryce (centre) surrounded by students and teachers of Kokopo Primary School in East New Britain Province.  - Picture by MIRIAM MALAWA, The National.

Bryce visited schools and hospitals in Port Moresby and East New Britain and had talks with the Prime Minister, PNG Governor-General, Ministers of the government as well as other MPs.


I, Thomas, have produced a 9-pager to help students struggling with Mathematics (Maths).
The PDF file would be useful for students learning Maths in Papua New Guinea and other parts in the Pacific.
I am targeting students at the Grades 8, 9, 10 and 11 levels.
But the principles discussed would prove useful for university or college level students also.   
Really, I think it is applicable to students anywhere in the world.
If you want a copy, just email me and I will send it to you: hwbthomas@gmail.com.
If you are not sure about anything mentioned in the pages, just post a query.
- Thomas

PS. I made a point at the start of the document in acknowledging two women who influenced me most in studying mathematics and its sister science. The first is my mother (a former teacher) and the second is another motherly teacher from Kerala, India. They both have since left us for the other world.   


SOME of the best stories I enjoyed are with the cab drivers.

I opened a folder about three weeks ago to compile some of the tales heard and discussed with these hard working people. Two weeks ago I was with a young man who ferried me on a 4km journey. The topic I kicked off with him was about how powerful our minds are.

Picture: Port Moresby down town on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Our minds can take us over many mountains and get us to sit on thrones where few are.

But then if we are not careful the same mind can trick us into thinking that we rule the world and forget God. (I am speaking to myself as much as speaking to you.)

I recounted the story of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 4 where he, the king of Babylon, the empire that ruled the world in that era, and had the best brains to guide him, made a big mistake.

He forgot about God and thought the world revolved around him.

The interesting thing about the story was in verses 24-29; he was warned in his dream (as interpreted by Daniel) that bad days were ahead if he continued with his bad ways.

Twelve months later, even after being warned and cautioned, he continued on in his evil ways and became insane and lived as a beast out on the field, and that included him eating grass.

It does not matter that you are 100% in tune with God, or 50-50, always acknowledge Him in your everything.

And when someone tells you you are going off track, be humble and take heed of the caution. There is One who rules … and will continue to rule.

Always acknowledge Him.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


A CHARLES Sturt University (CSU) researcher from Dubbo is being funded by AusAID to explore how best to identify and use cultural mathematical proficiencies to assist young students to transition to school mathematics in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Dr Kay Owens, lecturer in the CSU School of Teacher Education in Dubbo, has received an AusAID grant of $391,000 (K881,460.84) for a three-year (2013-2015) research project titled, Improving the teaching of mathematics in Papua New Guinea elementary schools by using local languages and cultural practices.

"The many languages and ecologies of PNG pose challenges for teaching maths there," Dr Owens said.

"Elementary education (years one to three) is dependent on the understanding of teachers to build on cultural knowledge and to move students to school mathematics without dysfunction and loss of identity.

"The research will use 'design research', a relatively new research method, to design and refine guidelines to assist elementary teachers to recognise and use cultural mathematical proficiencies, and to develop vernacular phrases for school mathematics.

The research will also develop a design for professional learning with technology, and will improve education for students in more remote areas where vernacular languages are strong, to maintain respect for elders and thus strong values in society."

Dr Owens has extensive experience with education in PNG, dating from 1973 when she taught mathematics at the PNG University of Technology.

Her research builds on 15 years of living and working in Lae, together with 13 follow-up visits over a 40-year period, visiting and staying in over 60 villages spanning 52 languages across PNG.

Dr Owens' research has focused on ethno-mathematics, looking particularly at the counting systems, measurement and space concepts, values and ways of thinking mathematically, of hundreds of the more than 800 languages from quite different PNG cultures.

She emphasises eco-cultural mathematics, visuo-spatial reasoning, partnerships with community, and context for education.

"There is a growing body of research about different language groups and their mathematical proficiencies, mostly about counting," Dr Owens said.

"There is data for 352 PNG language groups that illustrate how village activities such as gardening; building bridges, traps, and canoes; weaving walls, mats, and baskets; making other artifacts; playing games; navigating on sea and land; hunting and fishing; and participating in exchanges can be linked to mathematics.

"There was a strong recognition from student teachers that incorporating cultural activities would strengthen students' learning and understanding of mathematics and revitalise cultural practices.

"The language should support conceptual development rather than be transliterations."

Dr Owens is affiliated with CSU's Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education (RIPPLE), which has supported this project by providing a fellowship for one semester for her as principal researcher, and providing a project manager.

Dr Owens will work with the Glen Lean Ethnomathematics Centre (GLEC) in the Division of Mathematics and Computing at the University of Goroka.

All but two researchers involved in this project are PNG nationals.

Support will also be given by an Australian linguist familiar with remote Indigenous language strengths for mathematics education.

- Appeared in The National on April 22, 2013

Monday, April 8, 2013


Picture 1: Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra accompanied by PNG Sports and Special Events Minister Justin Tkatchenko (right), Speaker of the House of Parliament Theo Zurenuoc and followed behind by Chief Protocal Officer Jimmy Ovia as they make their way into the Parliament House. The traditional dancers are the Huli wig men from the Tari area of Hela province. - Picture by EKAR KEAPU, The National      

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA, the Thai Prime Minister, made a two-day visit to PNG recently. 

Picture 2: Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra inspecting a guard of honour by the PNG Defence Force upon arrival at the Jackson International Airport, Port Moresby, on March 24. - Picture by EKAR KEAPU, The National     

She and her delegation flew in on March 24 and flew out on March 25.

She met with the PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and discussed possible deals that the two countries could take up in the future.

Thailand has expressed its interest to help with the construction work that is going on in the country to prepare for the billion-dollar PNG Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project that is attracting a lot of people from around the world.