Press release

Maths free school competition winners congratulated

The first 2 specialist maths free schools ran a competition for gifted mathematicians and the Education Secretary gave out the prizes.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Maths with calculator

Education Secretary Michael Gove presented prizes to the winners of a maths competition run by the first 2 specialist maths free schools.

School pupils in London and the south west were invited by King’s College London (KCL) Maths School and Exeter Mathematics School to create a 5-minute video explaining one of 5 maths puzzles. They were: the bridges of Königsberg, Pascal’s problem of points, the enumeration of Pythagorean triples, Bézout’s buckets and ponds, and how every modern fraction can be written in terms of Egyptian fractions.

KCL Maths School and Exeter Mathematics School will be the first state-funded specialist maths free schools. They will open in September 2014, welcoming the brightest maths students from their respective regions.

Eighty-five entries were submitted by schools in London and 40 entries by schools in the south west.

London’s competition was won by pupils from Harris Academy South Norwood. Shannon Jackowski, Meghan Takwani, Ollie Springate and Katie Darnell-Smith won with their explanation of Pascal’s problem of points.

In the south west, Molly Spalding, Jasmine Qian and Jasmine Pearce, from the Royal Bath High School, won with their explanation of Bézout’s buckets and ponds.

The winners showed their videos to the Education Secretary at an awards ceremony at the Department for Education. Mr Gove presented the pupils with signed copies of ‘The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets’ by Simon Singh MBE.

The 2 schools ran the competition to encourage pupils to take a creative approach to common maths problems. Young people were given a taster of the different approaches to maths education available at the free schools.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

Congratulations to the pupils from Harris Academy South Norwood and The Royal Bath High School on being the winners of the King’s and Exeter competition. They tackled 2 challenging maths problems and I was very impressed by the clarity, creativity and confidence of their solution.

We need specialist maths free schools like King’s College London (KCL) Maths School and Exeter Mathematics School. They will develop the talents of exceptional young mathematicians and ensure they can compete in the global race.

The KCL and Exeter schools are the first to take advantage of a development grant made available by the Department for Education for the creation of university-led specialist maths free schools.

Both schools will cater for up to 120 16- to 19-year-olds who show an extraordinary ability in the subject. The aim is to create an environment that nurtures talent and encourages pupils to aim for higher study and to eventually help them compete with the best mathematicians, scientists and engineers in the world.

Pupils will benefit from high-quality teaching by university academics. Critical thinking and applying creative approaches to real-world problems will bring out the best in young mathematicians.

Dan Abramson, head of the KCL Maths School, said:

The fact there were so many entries from across London for this competition shows that there is a real passion for maths, problem solving and communicating effectively - vital skills which stand pupils in good stead for university study and future employment.

Kerry Burnham, head of Exeter Mathematics School, said:

I am thrilled that young people in the south west have demonstrated such an interest in maths through taking part in this exciting competition. The judges were both entertained by and impressed with the level of creativity, mathematical insight and enthusiasm demonstrated by many teams.

The pupils from the schools said the competition allowed them to look at maths in a different way. Shannon, Meghan, Ollie and Katie, from Harris Academy South Norwood, said:

We are so happy that university mathematicians like our solution. We wanted our video to stand out and make it one that even people who don’t like maths as much us can enjoy. It made our maths lessons fun and we liked exploring the problem for ourselves.

Molly, Jasmine and Jasmine, from The Royal Bath High School, said:

We loved this assignment because it allowed us to be creative in the use of mathematics. Lots of maths competitions are classroom based, and written, but we were motivated by the opportunity to communicate in an artistic and imaginative way.

Further information about the schools can be found on the KCL Mathematics School website and the Exeter Mathematics School website.

Notes to Editors

  1. Universities interested in developing their own maths free school can find more information in the free school section of the DfE website

  2. The winning entries can be viewed online:
  3. The Department for Education has already announced plans to boost maths education, including:
    • the development of a new maths qualification (core maths) for post-16 education, boosting the number studying this key subject to age 18 - and improving young people’s numeracy skills
    • overhauling the primary and secondary mathematics curriculum to be much more rigorous and in line with the best countries internationally - the new programmes of study will be out for formal consultation in due course, for first teaching from September 2014
    • funding good quality mathematics professional development for primary, secondary and post-16 teachers, through the National Centre for the Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM)
    • giving primary schools the opportunity to employ teachers who have been trained as specialist mathematics teachers; the DfE has launched a primary mathematics specialist programme, on which the first trainees start in September 2013 - primary mathematics specialist trainees with at least a grade B at A level receive an extra £2,000 bursary
    • working with the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), the London Mathematical Society (LMS) and the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) to offer around 150 scholarships, worth £20,000 each, to graduates with a 2:1 or a first-class degree wanting to train as a mathematics teacher

DfE enquiries

Published 19 November 2013