Our philosophy is rooted in creating confidence in maths. A firmly positive attitude to complex and unfamiliar problems means the difference between enjoying and enduring maths, and ultimately whether or not a student achieves his or her potential. Too many young people dismiss maths subjects as ‘for other people’. We understand that confidence in maths is not innate and aim to open students’ eyes to the wonderful world of pure maths and to the many and varied applications of maths in the sciences and beyond.
Our teaching techniques are tailored to this philosophy, from ensuring the right balance between the teacher talking through examples and students tackling problems themselves, to planning plenty of opportunity for students to interact 1:1 with the teacher while they work independently. Perhaps most importantly, we always encourage students to view making mistakes as a hugely valuable part of the learning process: they are much more likely to understand and remember the right method having attempted it themselves, particularly if they initially got it wrong.
Students leave The Perse with a high degree of numeracy – essential wherever life takes them. They learn to appreciate the difference between an answer and a solution, using their knowledge, skills and intuition to select the most appropriate maths to bring to bear on any question. We help them develop rigorous working habits, instilling the importance of writing proper solutions and making judicious use of computers.
Above all we encourage them to explore and broaden their maths while they are at the School, and inspire and equip them to discover more when they move on to the next stage of their education.
- Learning journey - Years 7-9
In Years 7 to 9 we focus on breadth, covering ground in all topics and then building on that knowledge the following year. This ensures students enjoy variety, and has the advantage of allowing time, over several years, for all the main concepts to bed in effectively. When the topic is revisited and extended the following year, students effectively revise work they have previously covered to fix their knowledge firmly before deepening their understanding. In Year 7 we add the topic of bases to the more orthodox topics that appear later on in the IGCSE syllabus.
- Learning journey - IGCSE
IGCSE introduces extra topics and gives students their first glimpse of high level maths, where the understanding required is more subtle.
In Year 11, those who have taken IGCSE at the end of Year 10 go on to study for an additional mathematics qualification: OCR’s Free Standing Mathematics Qualification (Advanced Level). The remaining classes in Year 11 complete the IGCSE.
- Providing stretch
We set optional tasks each term for all students who wish to take their learning beyond the classroom, which might involve exploring what Descartes has to do with our modern use of coordinates or how probability is used in the Schrödinger’s Cat theory.
Our drop-in surgeries, where younger students can concentrate on specific aspects of maths with teachers or older students, are very popular. We encourage wider reading, provding our own suggestions and encouraging pupils to explore the University of Cambridge reading list.
We enter and prepare our students for three major national maths challenges each year: the UK Junior Maths Challenge, the UK Intermediate Maths Challenge and the UK Senior Maths Challenge. These competitions give students the chance to tackle questions beyond the confines of the more rigid exam syllabus and are a great preparation for the International Maths Olympiad. In 2016, two Perse students represented the UK in the Balkan Mathematical Olympiad, and were selected for the UK squad for the International Mathematical Olympiad.
Students learn about the ‘maths of thrillls’ on a trip to Disneyland Paris, where they study the application of energy, forces, speed, acceleration, Pythagoras’ Theorem and trigonometry. Studies culminate in a workshop to put this theory into practice by designing their own ‘rollercoaster curves’.
- Beyond the classroom
The MacLaurin Society meets weekly, when either students or staff give a talk on a maths topic of their choice. They are designed for sixth formers, however anyone is welcome, and younger students do attend and indeed give talks themselves. STEM club runs for older students intending to study a STEM subject at university to help them make the links between the different subjects.
Our ’42’ society programme of lunchtime lectures includes topics of interest to mathematicians. In 2016 we will welcome Professor Mike Cates, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge (a position held by Sir Isaac Newton and Professor Stephen Hawking), who will be talking on the topic of ‘Bulletproof Custard: Fluids that stop flowing when you push them too hard.’
In addition to the UK Mathematics Trust individual maths challenges, students take part in three team maths competitions organised by the UKMT and the local Further Maths Network – competitions in which Perse teams have had considerable success. We also run a popular ‘puzzle of the month’ competition.