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Exciting and inspiring the next generation of mathematicians, scientists and thinkers.
The number of Senior School students studying mathematics is a source of pride here. Mathematical skills and knowledge are a lynchpin for the physical sciences, but also inform philosophy, religion, literature, the social sciences and the arts. Consider the range of areas covered by the title ‘mathematics’: calculus, geometry, algebra, probability, statistics and mechanics. All are developed throughout A level, underpinned by rigorous reasoning and secure understanding of abstraction and application. Mathematics students establish a comprehensive intellectual framework that offers beauty and interest in itself whilst also providing means for understanding our physical and social world.
The focus of the VII is core mathematical skills with excursion into statistical and probabilistic reasoning and the application of Newtonian theory to the physical world. Applied mathematical techniques are studied with connection to their applications and historical contexts. In the VIII, this development continues, with particular focus on sophisticated calculus methods and extending the range of applications of mathematics.
Further mathematicians cover all of this territory in VII then extend their pure mathematical techniques (co-ordinate geometry, calculus, vectors) in VIII, with a choice to ‘major’ their applied exploration in either Statistics or Mechanics, depending on what will best suit their future needs.
Throughout, students look at mathematics as a language, as a kind of logical structure, as a body of knowledge about number and space, as a series of reasoned methods for deriving conclusions, as the essence of our knowledge of the physical world, or merely as a diverting intellectual activity. The best mathematicians are those who find imaginative and unexpected interdisciplinary connections.
Mathematics is a valued activity beyond the requirements of the syllabus. All senior mathematicians are entered for the UKMT Maths Challenge, with many qualifying for the subsequent Olympiad rounds. For those who enjoy competitions, we enter teams into the UKMT Team Challenge (winners in 2011) and UKMT Senior Team Challenge. The VII and VIII (Years 12 and 13) also take leading positions in the team for the London schools Hans Woyda Competition. We were runners-up in 2012 and winners in both 2014 and 2018.
For the less competitively minded, students are encouraged to attend the Maths Society lectures, given by invited speakers. These are also an opportunity to meet mathematicians from other schools, as we open our doors (real and virtual) to students from other secondary schools. Students in VII (Year 12) are also encouraged to submit a piece of mathematical investigation for the school’s Senior Scholarship Competition.
In recent years, mathematical submissions have included comparing the effects of different models of cancer treatment, investigating non-linear dynamical systems (chaos theory) and a probabilistic analysis of poker. A most creative submission in 2015, one of that year’s prize-winners, involved the development of a web browser-based visualisation of 4D and 5D shapes rotating in space! Increasingly, mathematical submissions contain an element of coding, as Computer Science becomes a fixture of school life.
We also co-ordinate visits to occasional lectures at the Institute of Education, Royal Institution and Gresham College: as the world has discovered the range of possibilities of digital technology, such ‘visits’ are easier than ever!
A level study in mathematics can lead in any and every direction. Employers and academics value the problem-solving skills of abstraction, dissolution and reconstruction you will develop – it’s not just for the scientists!
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