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Val Pritchard, AC for Hertfordshire

“I am applying for university. What help can you give me?”

Have you ever had this question? Sometimes it’s more specific – “I need to take STEP / MAT / TMUA. What should I do?”. Sometimes it’s vague – “I am finding my maths really easy, is there something more challenging?”. Whichever way a student expresses interest, problem-solving events are a great way to convince them to pursue maths further.

There are a wide range of university admission tests, taken by students across the country:

  • STEP (Sixth Term Examination Papers) are used by Cambridge and Warwick University
  • MAT (Mathematics Admissions Test) are used by Oxford University and Imperial College
  • TMUA (Test of Mathematics for University Admission) are used by Durham, Lancaster, Sheffield, Southampton and Warwick University

An easily accessible set of tasks can be found in the past Senior Team Mathematics Challenge (STMC) questions. There’s also more substantial training offered by the STEP support programme, with assignments suitable for Year 12 and Year 13 students.

An annual problem-solving conference in Cambridge will take place on Monday 17 December. Designed with both Year 12 and Year 13 study in mind, the conference provides an opportunity to consider different aspects of problem solving. It will be particularly relevant for students going on to sit STEP, AEA or MAT examinations. Teachers will have the opportunity to work on problems with their students and attend separate professional development sessions for problem solving.

Around the region there are a variety of regular problem-solving classes:

  • In Welwyn and Hatfield, twilight classes at Monk’s Wall School for Year 12 started in June and have continued into year 13 with a focus on questions from MAT papers. The classes will now continue on Saturday mornings at UH from January to March with an emphasis on STEP.
  • In Cambridge, Year 12 and Year 13 classes have just commenced at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences and will continue through the autumn and spring terms into the summer. Students will look at problems from a range of sources, including STEP and MAT.
  • In both Norfolk and Essex, 10 classes are planned for mixed groups of Year 12 and Year 13 to start after Christmas. Further details to follow.

All problem solving events have been well received. “It helped me think outside the box. Eventually finished questions with great satisfaction.”

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