Mathematics in the spotlight

Date Posted: Monday 08 November 2021

Ashford School will once again be participating in the annual Maths Week England event, taking place from 8 to 12 November 2021. This grassroots movement launched in 2019 and is aimed at providing young people in England with a positive image of Mathematics, and to contribute in a small way to changing the national attitude towards this vital and beautiful subject.

During this week there will be several activities taking place, including Number Rumba and Maths Jam, both of which are very popular with the students! There will also be a treasure hunt taking place throughout the week, with clues being shared on the @AshfordMaths Twitter account. Our students have been invited to a viewing of Measure the Earth’s radius (with this one complicated trick!) from the Stand Up Maths YouTube channel, and they are all enthusiastically memorising the digits of Pi.

At Ashford School, our Mathematics programme emphasises the importance of problem-solving skills through real-world situations and context. A key part of our curriculum is the use of journals to explore Mathematics in the world, allowing pupils to engage creatively with the subject in their own unique way. Underpinning this explorative work are the key areas of Number and Algebra, which are the focus of Key Stage 3. We use HegartyMaths and Sparx, online platforms that combine explanatory videos with self-marking exercises, which enables pupils to become more independent in their learning.

In preparation for the International GCSE exams, we extend the Algebra and add in more Geometry and Data Handling, including incorporating data from the department’s weather station, which collects local weather data. Many pupils take part each year in the UKMT Mathematics Challenges. In addition to many pupils receiving Gold, Silver and Bronze certificates, many also qualify for the follow-on Kangaroo and Olympiad rounds. For pupils who wish to extend themselves further, we provide access to the UKMT Mentoring Scheme, allowing pupils to explore extended problems.

Mathematics is an extremely popular subject at A Level, with over half the year group choosing to study it each year. Of these, between 15 and 20 take on the additional challenge of studying Further Mathematics. Pupils continue to do journal work, generally on more extended projects, with Year 13 Further Mathematics pupils also giving a talk on an area of Mathematics of their choice. Teaching is supplemented by open-ended problems from the Underground Mathematics project, together with exploration of the Large Data Set. At the end of Year 12, a few pupils attend the Exploring Mathematics Conference at Royal Holloway, which gives them an insight into Mathematics at university. We also support pupils though STEP and MAT to give them the best chance of future success.

Our approach to teaching Mathematics is quite different from other schools. For example, with our Further Maths offering, we teach both subjects in parallel, teaching both the Maths and Further Maths content from the start of Year 12. Many schools are moving towards sequential teaching, where the Further Maths content is not touched until Year 13, but teaching both subjects from the beginning exposes pupils to the very new ideas in Further Maths from an early stage. This gives a much wider perspective on this beautiful subject and allows them to master the material more effectively.

Over the summer before the start of Year 13, pupils are asked to do project work culminating in presentations at the start of Year. Some pupils have previously been selected to give their talks to the whole school during assembly. This is part of our commitment to make our A Level education diverse and inspiring.

In recent years, a number of pupils have independently worked on undergraduate Mathematics, with support and guidance from staff.

Over 20% of our 2021 A Level leavers have gone on to study a Maths-related course at university. These include:

  • 1 student studying Maths (at the University of Birmingham)
  • 1 studying Financial Maths (Loughborough)
  • 1 studying Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics (Warwick)
  • 2 studying Computer Science (University of the West of England, Greenwich)
  • 6 studying various Engineering degrees (Exeter, Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff, Lancaster, Loughborough)
  • 4 studying Finance and Accounting degrees (Manchester, Queen Mary)
  • 1 student who gained a place on JP Morgan’s Financial Services degree apprenticeship scheme

This year we have students applying for degrees in Maths, Computer Science, Engineering, Physics, Astrophysics and Geophysics, as well as a number of courses related to Economics and Finance.

Ashford School alumni who have pursued further studies in Mathematics include:

  • Uma Divekar (Squires, 2009) studied Mathematics at Oxford University, gaining a First Class degree in 2013. She currently works as a Senior Actuarial Associate at Lloyd’s, having previously worked at PwC.
  • Wendy Lau (Pilgrims/Brabourne, 2008) studied Natural Sciences, with a focus on Chemistry and Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. She is now working at PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong, and works closely with the Chief of Staff to support the Managing Partner in driving strategic initiatives implementation in Consulting, Deals and Digital Redesign.
  • Weihe Claire Li (Yeomen/Brabourne, 2018) is currently studying Mathematics at Cambridge University (2020-2023).
  • Stephanie Evans (nee Watermeyer, Knights, 1987) has a BSc in Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics at The University of Warwick (1987-1990) and is currently working as a Maths Tutor.
  • Crystal Liu (Yeomen/Brabourne, 2009) studied Mathematics with Financial Mathematics at the University of Manchester. She is currently Ecommerce Manager in LVMH Group digital.

In conclusion, we are very proud of the Mathematics department and its offerings and hope to continue to inspire our students to perform at their best in this challenging yet exciting subject. As Albert Enstein said, “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.”