Pupils from Grange Academy scooped over 20 awards at the Scottish Mathematical Council’s Maths Challenge Prizegiving at Glasgow University recently.
The Maths Challenge is notoriously difficult and nationally only 19% of people who submit an entry earn a certificate; however Grange Academy is bucking this trend with some extremely impressive results.
Resident geek of the Maths department, and Teacher of the Year Chris Smith, said: “The Maths Challenge is incredibly hard; some of the Senior questions posed for S5/6 students could even stump a Maths teacher.
“Ten problems have to be completed and these are sent off and marked by teams at Scottish universities. Our S2 and S3 classes provided an impressive haul of awards and have set the benchmark for future years. Hannah Martin deserves a shout out as our sole S1 prizewinner this year.
“Only four Senior Gold certificates were awarded across the whole of Central Scotland and three went to Grange Academy pupils. How fitting that two of these went to Angus Docherty and Hannah Ewart who have been consistent performers in Maths competitions over the last six years but are sadly leaving us to head off to university. I would also like to congratulate Eva Peter who was the other Senior Gold winner.”
To give a flavour of the level of difficulty in the questions posed, here are just three of the problems from the Junior Challenge given to S1/2 pupils.
a) Some people think it is unlucky if the 13th day of a month falls on a Friday. Show that in every calendar year (non-leap or leap) there will always be at least one such unlucky Friday but that there can be no more than three.
b) The value of “50!” is the product of all the whole numbers from 1 to 50 inclusive, i.e. 50! = 1 × 2 × 3 × 4 × … × 49 × 50. How many times can “50!” be divided exactly by 2?
c) Two fractions are equally spaced on a number line between one quarter and two thirds. What are the two fractions?
And the success doesn’t stop there for Grange Academy’s Maths Department.
Mr Smith’s S5 class has followed up their impressive tradition in the “Mathématiques Sans Frontières” contest.
This is a unique competition where students work as a whole class, collaborating to solve a batch of problems, some of which are posed in, and must be answered, in a foreign language.
In S3, the team finished third in Scotland. In S4, the team finished second in Scotland. This year, they went one better and were crowned Scottish champions at the awards ceremony held at Heriot Watt University.
Collecting the shield and prizes on behalf of the winners were Ethan Millar, Sam Beattie, Andrew Smith and Euan Edwards.
Mr Smith said: “What a result. While we have a bit of pedigree in this competition, to outperform every school that entered is a fantastic achievement. These guys are a credit to Grange Academy and a few of them are going to be presenting alongside me at an upcoming conference for Maths teachers, where they’ll be sharing their top tips for success in Maths competitions and I’m sure that teachers from across Scotland will be keen to learn from these experts. And of course I’ll be roping them in for a musical performance of my latest Mathematical parody song!”
Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “This is just fantastic for Grange Academy and for East Ayrshire. Our young people are leading the way in Scotland, in a discipline that we are focused on developing and building at a national level – Maths.
“STEM is so important. As a nation, it is an integral part of our economic development. We need to ensure that Scotland’s legacy of innovation and achievement continues into the future and I am sure that the pupils of Grange Academy will have an important part to play.
“Mr Smith, and the Grange Maths Department, must be commended for encouraging a love of Maths among their pupils and ensuring that they have the skills to succeed in this field.”