On Tuesday, 17 March 2015 Tendring’s team of four made the 2 hour trip to Cambridge to attend the UK Maths Challenge competition, a first for this year group. Some of us even did our Maths homework on the way. After we got lost, thanks to the university’s numerous dead ends and one way system, we arrived with just 10 minutes to spare. We tried the practice questions on the table to get our brains warmed up. We felt quite confident, managing to complete most of the practice questions.
Miss Malinowska then had to leave us and we got a teacher from another school, just to ensure no cheating was possible. After all the teachers rotated groups we were handed the group round sheet. We had a good strategy as we each worked on one of the questions and then put it in the next pile. Then, with our 15 minutes ‘left over’ time we then checked all the questions that we didn't answer ourselves. This strategy clearly worked as we achieved nearly 75% correct, one of the highest group round scores in the competition.
Next was the cross number. We had practised it so much in our practice sessions after school that we were pretty sure we could manage a decent score. We did very well adopting another very clever strategy. We first worked out all the questions that could be worked out on their own, i.e. those without needing the answers to other questions to complete them. Unfortunately, it came to a halt when we couldn't remember what a palindromic number was. But our strategy worked around it. We then found the question that was needed to work out most of the other questions. Once we knew that, we traced it back to see what questions were needed to work that question out and so on. Eventually the burden fell to Grace and I on the across clues. After we had the answer it became much easier. We even recognised a question from the group round, requiring the prime factors of 2015. We, of course, knew this to be 5, 13 & 31. However our precise workings cost us when with 2 minutes to go we had several unanswered questions. Grace then made a quick decision, as team captain, to leave no question empty as it was guaranteed to not get us a mark if it was blank. So with 30 seconds left I filled in all the blank spaces with educated guesses. Amazingly some were correct giving us 2 extra points. We finished with an around average mark on the round. We then had 40 minutes for lunch where some of us went outside to look around Cambridge University.
When we got back we had the shuttle round. The idea was one pair answers a question and this answer is required to answer the other pair’s question: This is needed for the first pairs second question, the answer to which feeds in to the second pair’s second question. The difficulty comes when if any of them are wrong all subsequent questions don’t get marked and score 0 even if they were right. We felt a little less confident but still felt like we could do it.
We started with Grace and I doing the first question which fed into all the others. We did quite well on the first shuttle finishing all the questions and getting them all right, after a few tries. On the second shuttle it was Pascale and Erin in the other pair who had to start. We did pretty well completing it with time to spare, only missing the bonus for doing it in 6 minutes and not 8 minutes, by 15 seconds. However, Grace and I got our first question wrong so needed to rely on Pascale and Erin’s question who achieved good marks. On the third shuttle it was Grace and I who had the first question. It was incredibly hard.
It took us 6 of the 8 minutes to complete it, making it very hard for Pascale and Erin to do their question with so little time left. Afterwards, Pascale and Erin agreed that it was very challenging to be the first question of the shuttle. On the fourth and final shuttle it was Pascale and Erin to start again. We did pretty well with the final shuttle answering them all and only getting the final part wrong. Although we did alright, we didn't do as well as some of the other groups in the shuttle round.
The last round was the relay in which the two pairs were split up and we had to get our question from our teacher and run to our pair to answer it. We then had to run to the teacher to check it. If it was wrong we had to run back to our pair and have one more chance at it. Or, if it was right then we had to get the next question and run to the other pair to deliver it for them to answer. We were the only school in the whole competition who came prepared with trainers to change into, from our school shoes. There were 15 questions for each pair and only 2 questions from each of us were unanswered in the 45 minutes given. When it came to the end, we weren't told our scores but we were told our place.
Sadly the shuttle round took more of a blow than we thought and we came 28th out of 30. However we were one of only 4 state schools in the competition. We also all got a pen and pencil case out of it just for entering but we left with our heads held high knowing only one other state school scored higher than us.
Many thanks to Mrs Malinowska and Mrs Clarke who not only took us but advised us, motivated us and just looked after us. Also, many thanks to Mr Goodchild for preparing us by running 4 after school sessions that certainly meant we were well prepared for what was a tough competition....
Do it again ... you bet!
Article by Alfie Chenery