Over the last two years, UKMT Mathematical Circles have been held around the country to encourage year 10 students to see mathematics as a subject that is far more important than GCSE mathematics may suggest. Partly funded by the Department for Education, UKMT Mathematical Circles enable young and capable mathematicians to come together for two days and follow a mathematically demanding programme of four workshops each day. They provide an opportunity to discuss mathematics and make new friends from other schools around their region, as well as discovering some new areas of mathematics.
Topics covered during the two days at St Swithun’s ranged from the abstract – ideas around proof, curve sketching and fractals – to real-world problems – the analysis of volcanic eruptions and data compression. Mathematical history was also included in a session on how Nelson used mathematical thinking to win the Battle of Trafalgar, and the students even learned how to drill a square hole. The event finished with a session on the creation of magic tricks based on mathematical principles.
Speakers for the workshops included Vicky Neale of Oxford University, Madeleine Copin of North London Collegiate School, Dominic Rowland of St Paul’s School, Hugh Hill from Winchester College and Susan Sturton, head of physics at St Swithun’s.
Head of mathematics at St Swithun’s and host of the event, Stephen Power, said: “I have been amazed by the way these year 10s have thrown themselves into so many varied but stretching mathematical activities over the past two days. I hope that we have inspired and possibly surprised them with the beauty and range of mathematics and that they will all now think seriously about whether mathematics will play a large part in their future lives and careers.”