Senior Team Mathematics Challenge

On 25 November, Benedict Littlefair, John Jayne, Michael Zotov and Emily Cui represented MPW in the West London heat of the Senior Team Mathematics Challenge, organised by the Further Mathematics Support Programme in partnership with the UK Mathematics Trust. With a large number of talented Further Mathematicians at MPW, choosing a team was a difficult. Students were chosen for their potential to work well as a team and their ability to tackle mathematics problems presented in unfamiliar contexts. It was the first time that MPW has entered this competition, so it was an unknown quantity, but when the team met a couple of times before the event it was evident that we were in with a chance.

There were 15 teams competing and three rounds to the competition. First, there was a 40-minute ‘Group Round’ in which teams were asked to attempt ten questions, each worth the same number of marks but varying in difficulty. Our team decided to divide the work into pairs and was one of only a handful of teams to score full marks. The next round was a ‘Crossnumber’: teams divided into two pairs to solve a mathematical crossword puzzle in 40 minutes. One pair was given the Across clues, the other pair the Down clues. Most of the clues are reliant on other answers and communication between pairs is strictly controlled via a teacher (from another school). Our team dropped a few marks, but were able to solve the puzzle well within the allocated time.

Finally, in the ‘Mini-relay Round’, two pairs must solve four mathematical problems in eight minutes. The solution to the first problem is required to solve the second problem, and so on. Time is of the essence, but a wrong answer from one pair means that all subsequent answers are wrong. Our team solved the first problem within six minutes, gaining bonus points. At this point, we were looking strong; however, one small slip up in the early stages of the next problem cascaded a wrong answer (made worse by the fact that we could hear some other teams congratulating themselves).

We came second overall. We were close to the winning team and were significantly better than the vast majority of other teams. The team were a credit to MPW. As lower-sixth students, Michael Zotov and Emily Cui are eligible to be part of next year’s team, and they have already been talking tactics.

Antony Bray