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Tom Rainbow, AC for North Somerset, Devon (East) and Somerset

Although we know maths is an enjoyable, fascinating and beautiful pursuit in its own right, one of the main drivers for the development of mathematical skills is to solve problems. With greater emphasis on problem solving and the application of mathematical knowledge in the new A level, problem solving has become an even more important skill – especially as an increasing number of universities are setting additional examinations to assess applicants’ ability to work with maths in unfamiliar settings.

The Advanced Mathematics Support Programme has set up a series of higher level problem solving classes. Hosted by the Exeter Maths School, the course is running across the spring and summer terms. Roughly twenty students have joined from a range of secondary schools in Devon, and the sessions cover topics including:

  • Digits & divisibility
  • Completing the square
  • Coordinate geometry
  • Vectors
  • Quadratics and cubics

In future sessions we will explore problem solving in trigonometry, with logarithms, sequences and series, consider combinatorics and the binomial expansion. Our final class will be on problem solving involving calculus techniques.

Although the problems have been challenging, the mathematical topic areas have not required knowledge of any mathematics beyond the Year 12 A level Mathematics curriculum. This is generally the case with university admissions tests as well. In a change to past years, we have used a team of presenters and the eight sessions have been delivered by five engaging maths experts. 

We hope that the students attending these classes will find them enjoyable and that they will leave with numerous strategies for unlocking higher level maths problems, along with increase confidence as they attempt university admissions tests.

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