Guest post by Mr Thomas, Maths teacher
One of the most rewarding parts of my job as a maths teacher is watching students prepare for and participate in the various Maths Challenges that take place throughout the academic year.
At Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, there is a proud and long-standing tradition of entering students to sit these extra-curricular mathematics competitions, and participation numbers are on the up!
Having coordinated the Maths Challenge competitions at Churchill for the last two years, I felt it was time to write this blog. Why? Mainly – to celebrate the successes of our fantastic mathematicians, but also to share the Maths Challenge experience with students who may not have competed in one (yet), as well as parents, carers, grandparents and other members of the Academy community…. there’s even a chance for you to put your maths skills to the test with some questions from the latest Maths Challenges.
So, what is a Maths Challenge?
Each year, we enter students to sit the UKMT Mathematics Challenges. The UKMT (United Kingdom Mathematics Trust) is a national charitable organisation that was founded in 1996. Their headline aim is to “to advance the education of young people in mathematics” by organising and promoting enrichment events involving problem solving and team work. Papers are completed with no calculator, no measuring equipment – just a pencil, some paper and 5 possible answers to choose from.
There is no doubt that the Maths Challenges are aimed at high-attaining mathematicians – the competitions are designed to stretch the most able mathematicians across the country. But in our opinion – a good work ethic, willingness to take on a challenge and a positive bond with mathematics are equally important attributes.
There are 3 main Maths Challenges throughout an academic year are:
- Senior Maths Challenge (SMC) – aimed at Sixth Formers and selected high attaining students in Years 10 and 11.
- Intermediate Maths Challenge (IMC) – aimed at students in Years 9, 10 and 11.
- Junior Maths Challenge (JMC) – aimed at students in Years 7 and 8.
As I have already mentioned, one of the most satisfying parts of my jobs is seeing the sheer number of students putting themselves forward to take part in these optional competitions, which are designed to challenge them on problem solving mathematics that is often far beyond the scope of their studies within lessons in school.
So far this year, students have taken part in the senior and intermediate challenges in November and February, respectively. I am proud to say that we have had more participants in these two competitions than ever before, with 178 entries across both challenges. This is purely down to our current cohort of students showing huge levels of determination and perseverance, and these stats are a credit to them!
The Junior Maths Challenge takes place later this year on 27th and 28th of April.
How do the results work?
In each Maths Challenge, students are competing to obtain a Gold, Silver or Bronze certificate.
It is worth stressing that at Churchill, we are not solely focussed on ‘who did the best’ – it is an achievement in itself to take part. In our eyes, a successful challenge is one where a group of determined and enthusiastic students push themselves with some challenging mathematics. We were thrilled this year when students outside of our top sets put themselves forward to take part in the IMC. Two-thirds of the students who took part from Miss Morris and Miss Piper’s set 2 classes went on to achieve a certificate – a fantastic feat, and proof that maths challenges at Churchill Academy are not solely for our top set students.
In the most recent competition (the Intermediate Maths Challenge) 74% of students that participated scored high enough to receive a gold, silver or bronze certificate – another record-breaking figure for Churchill students in this event! When you consider that the national ‘certificate rate’ is 50%, you can see why we as a Maths Department are so impressed with our students and so keen to celebrate their outstanding results.
What happens after a Maths Challenge?
For students that perform exceptionally well, follow-on rounds await. Several thousand students across the UK are invited by the UKMT to sit the ‘Kangaroo’ paper, following each of the three challenges during the year. Invitations and the paper sat depends on each students’ year group.
At Churchill, 11 pupils qualified for this year’s Kangaroo paper following the IMC. You guessed it – another Churchill record!
Going one better is Bruce Butson, a Year 11 student who has qualified for an Olympiad follow-on round – the UKMT’s most prestigious challenge. Bruce is one of only around 600 pupils across the country to have qualified this year, based on his outstanding score in the IMC.
Bruce has agreed to share his thoughts and experiences of sitting various maths challenges during his five years at Churchill:
I have really enjoyed participating in the maths challenge each year. The challenge gives you the opportunity to push yourself and build upon your classroom learning, in a different style to traditional exams. The problem solving aspect means you have to apply yourself to each question and really focus when you get to the later questions. Having done this each year and competed in all of the different challenges (junior, intermediate and senior), I have always been able to find some interest and entertainment whether that be through the added difficulty or new understanding to answer tough questions I couldn’t answer before. In addition to this, I was able to see how I did against the rest of the country which was really motivating.
How would you get on?
Each Maths Challenge consists of 25 questions. Multiply that by 3 and that means 75 different questions across the Senior, Intermediate and Junior competitions in one academic year (no surprise that the maths involved in each competition is slightly trickier!). I have chosen 5 of them.
Take a look at the questions below and see if you can work out the correct answer (remember – pen and pencil only!). Just a reminder that the JMC is aimed at 11-13 year olds, the IMC aimed at 13-16 year olds and SMC sat by students aged 15-18.
Maths challenge try-at-home questions
At the bottom of the blog, you will find the solutions, along with an explanation as to why each particular answer is correct. No peeking!
If you’ve got this far, hopefully you now know a little more about the Maths Challenges at Churchill than you did at the beginning of this post. You have seen our fantastic gold, silver and bronze mathematicians, you have heard from one of our best also had a little taste as to what it is like to sit a Maths Challenge yourself.
This is completely optional, but we would love to know how you did on the five questions above. If you’re happy to tell us how many you got correct, please fill in an extremely short questionnaire by clicking here (you can do this anonymously if you like!).
If you ever have any queries about the Maths Challenges sat here at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, please feel free to get in touch. We hope these upward trends continue over the months and years to come!
Mr Thomas (DAT@churchill-academy.org)