A level Maths students bring home gold

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We have a strong tradition at MPW Cambridge of encouraging our students to take part in activities outside of the curriculum to enrich their lives both personally and academically. The Senior Maths Challenge is no exception to this.

Every year the UK Maths Trust organises several national competitions in Mathematics. The entry level competition for A level students of Mathematics is the Senior Maths Challenge, which was run this year on 7 November. Tens of thousands of students sat the Challenge across the country that day. Among them were students of MPW Cambridge. They were split into 10 sessions that ran from 9am all the way to 6pm. The Senior Maths Challenge is a test lasting 90 minutes and comprising 25 questions. Each question has five possible answers. A student scores four marks for a correct answer and loses one mark for each incorrect answer. Unanswered questions are given a score of zero.

Students start the test with 25 marks, so that even if all 25 answers are incorrect, they will not end up with a total negative score. The maximum possible score is 125. This year we had 12 students qualifying for the gold award (scores of 76 and higher), 19 silver awards (scores of 61-75) and 23 bronze awards (scores of 49-60). This was a fantastic achievement and we are all very proud of them.

High scoring students progress to higher level competitions. Students with a gold award qualify automatically for the Senior Kangaroo Challenge, but if they scored 100 marks or more, they qualify for the first round of the British Maths Olympiad. We have two candidates taking part in the British Maths Olympiad this year and 10 others doing the Senior Kangaroo Challenge. This is an outstanding achievement and we wish them all the very best. Both the Senior Kangaroo Challenge and the British Maths Olympiad will be run on 29 November. But how do these competitions differ?

The Senior Kangaroo Challenge is a 60-minute test similar to the Senior Maths Challenge, although the questions are considerably harder. It comprises 20 questions for which only an answer is required, in the form of a three-digit number. Just like the Senior Maths Challenge, the students are not required to show their reasoning or detailed working. They simply need to enter the value of the answer on the answer sheet. The emphasis here is on accuracy and speed. The top 25% of students receive a certificate of merit. Results of the Senior Kangaroo Challenge are expected in December.

The first round of the British Maths Olympiad is a very different test. There are only six problems, but full, detailed solutions are required. The emphasis here is on logical reasoning and the students are stretched by questions that require them to draw on knowledge from diverse areas of Mathematics. The top 100 or so students in the country can then progress to the second round of the Olympiad. The top 25% of students receive a certificate of distinction, while the next 45% receive a certificate of merit. Results of the first round are also expected in December.

While we celebrate the achievements of all of our students at MPW Cambridge, we wish our 12 mathematicians the very best of luck in these two top tier competitions and look forward to celebrating with them in December.

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