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an introduction to the competition

The annual UKMT Senior Mathematical Challenge offers a series of numerical hurdles for eager and talented Mathematics A level students to clear. We sat down with Mr. Lamine Djellali, tutor in Mathematics at Greene’s, to discuss the recent results.

Run by the United Kingdom Mathematics Trust (UKMT), a charity aimed at ‘advancing the education of young people in Mathematics’, the Senior Mathematical Challenge is one of the most prestigious academic competitions available to Sixth Form students. And with the Junior Mathematical Challenge accessible to ‘Year 8s and below’, thousands of students of all ages and abilities regularly put their brains to the test under their direction.

‘taking your mathematics brain to the gym.’

‘How best to sum up the UKMT Senior Mathematical Challenge? It’s like taking your Mathematics brain to the gym,’ describes Mr. Djellali. And with the challenge occurring only once a year, students train hard throughout the rest of the year, whether they are solving sets of complicated equations, strengthening their core understanding of geometrical properties, or building stamina and efficiency by thinking logically, all to keep themselves mentally fit.

‘Students attempt to answer twenty-five questions of increasing difficulty over two-hours,’ explains Mr. Djellali. ‘And, although they’re multiple choice with five options per question, there’s an 80% chance of failure if you attempt the challenge by randomly guessing answers.’ The competition is notorious for its difficulty, offering its elusive gold, silver, and bronze awards to only the top candidates across the country

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Our results

Greene’s would like to congratulate the following students for their achievements in the competition: silver award – Madeleine Ball, Year 13 (Best in School), Konstantin Levkov, Year 12 (Best in Year); bronze award – Eric Zhao, Year 12, Hal Philips, Year 12, Kacper Iwanski, Year 12.

‘Well done to this year’s contestants – we have a talented and eager roster of Mathematics students, and their results highlight that they are genuinely interested and engaged with the subject beyond the scope of their textbooks,’ appraises Mr. Grant Connor, Academic Director at Greene’s.

‘i WANTED TO TEST MY SKILLS’

Konstantin Levkov, who won a silver award and the ‘Best in the Year’ award for Year 12, described his experience: ‘I’ve always liked Mathematics – everything to do with it – the reason is that it is the backbone to almost everything that we perceive in our world. I took the Senior Mathematical Challenge because I wanted to test my skills at something I love, a subject that I’ve honed for 11 years. I didn’t feel nervous on the day, and with seven other students alongside me, the atmosphere actually felt somewhat relaxed!’

‘I don’t think I did too badly, if I’m honest. The challenge showed me that I still have things that I need to work on. My aim is to study Mathematics or Physics at either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, so I’ll definitely be back next year to try for the gold certificate.’

When asked about the general rising interest in STEM subjects across the U.K., Mr. Djellali reasoned that: ‘the fundamental elements of Mathematics are present in so many aspects of everyday life – aspects that we don’t even realise – from problem solving to cooking to art. The realisation of its extent and practical use beyond the page intrigues many young students.’ UCAS recently revealed that, since 2011, acceptance to Computer Science degrees have risen by almost 50%, Engineering courses up by 21%, and Artificial Intelligence by 400%1, further demonstrating the incredible generational surge in interest. Considering a STEM-based A level? Click here to learn how Greene’s can help you.

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sustainability

The UKMT challenge has evolved with the times. Pre-pandemic, the competition could only be completed on physical paper. This year’s edition was attempted on a variety of laptops, phones, and iPads – ensuring ease of access and a classroom atmosphere that Mr. Djellali describes as ‘fun but competitive’. ‘It’s also more sustainable for the environment, to do away with unnecessary paper usage’ – one of Greene’s key values.

Next up…

Mr. Djellali, tutor in Mathematics, already has his eye on next year’s competition, which will also likely take place in October, ‘I’m looking forward to re-inviting back this year’s Year 12s, when they will be in Year 13, to attempt the challenge again – the competition is also open to anyone with an interest in the subject – all students need to do is to let me know that they wish to take part either via e-mail or in person.’ Silver award winner Konstantin echoed his views: ‘What might I say to other students who are thinking of taking the Senior Mathematical Challenge? Give it a try! It’s a lot of fun and a great test for your skills.’

With all the buzz, we are almost tempted to sign up ourselves.

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REFERENCES

[1] Department for Education, More young people are taking STEM subjects than ever before, 9th February 2021, <https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/02/09/more-young-people-are-taking-stem-subjects-than-ever-before/>

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