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Lily Tang-Gentile, AC for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

We started a series of ten Year 12 Regular Problem Solving classes on Wednesday 13 February at Ormiston Bushfield Academy in Peterborough.

Students from four different Peterborough schools have been coming together every fortnight for the problem solving classes. Despite initially being quite shy, students engaged with tasks and discussed methods and solutions with pupils from different schools. Participating students were thinking about taking university admission tests, or just generally enjoy mathematical problem solving. The class became popular quickly and has since become oversubscribed – we’ve even had students bring their friends because they enjoyed it so much! We also had feedback that the students carried on with their discussions back in their own school/college the following day, and have shown some of the questions to their Year 10 and Year 11 classmates.

In the three previous sessions, students have delved into some geometry, the application of difference of two squares, and combinatorics. Whilst students are used to the idea of moving onto the next question when they get the answer right, we encourage them to think if there is a more beautiful or elegant way of solving the question. This develops their skills to see the question in a different way, and helps them find a different method for the problem. The students were also introduced to Fermi estimations as a starter activity. Despite it not being part of university admission tests or A level Mathematics curriculum, we hope that these tasks expand their thinking and problem-solving skills. So far, we have estimated the number of nurses needed in the flu vaccination season, as well as how many Jaffa cakes you can fit into a telephone box.

We very much hope to run another series of regular problem solving classes in the autumn term of 2019 for Year 12 and Year 13 in Peterborough. Do get in touch if you would like to host these classes in your school!

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