Each year, the Mathematical Association and the United Kingdom Maths Trust organise a number of individual competitions and team challenges for children aged 9 to 18. Vinehall pupils have the opportunity to take part in the Primary Maths Challenge when they are in Years 5 and 6 and the Junior Mathematical Challenge when they are in Years 7 and 8. This year, for the first time, we will also be entering some of our Year 8s for the Intermediate Mathematical Challenge, a competition which is primarily intended for senior school age pupils in Years 9, 10 and 11.

This week, the children in Years 5 and 6 have completed the Primary Maths Challenge. They will not find out for a couple of weeks how they have done, but we hope they enjoyed getting to grips with some challenging problems designed to stretch their reasoning skills!

To give an example of the types of questions the children have to answer, below is the final question from the 2017 paper:

A rectangle has an area of 20cm2.  If its length is reduced by 2.5cm and its width is increased by 3cm, the new shape is a square. What is the perimeter of the square?

This week is also national ‘Maths Week’ and throughout the week the pupils have been completing challenges on the website mangahigh.com in the hope of being awarded a medal at the end of the week. All of the pupils in the Prep school have Mangahigh accounts and the website is an invaluable teaching tool – it is particular effective for consolidating the children’s understanding of topics that they have covered in Maths lessons. If at the weekend or during the holidays your son or daughter is pleading to be allowed their screen time, you might want to suggest that they log-on to Mangahigh!

The Year 7s are continuing to work through the theme of Conflict and in a week or two they will be learning about the Crimean War in their History lessons. This obviously provides the opportunity for reading some Tennyson in English, but there are also links with mathematics. Everybody is familiar with the name Florence Nightingale and most people also know that she was a nurse in the Crimean War who helped to improve conditions in field hospitals, reducing deaths that were a result of poor hygiene. What is perhaps less well known is that it was Nightingale’s work as a statistician that led to changes being made.

Whilst in the Crimea, Florence Nightingale gathered data about the causes of death amongst soldiers and, rather than presenting her findings in tables of figures, she produced a form of pie chart, now sometimes referred to as a Nightingale rose diagram.  These rose diagrams (technically they are called polar area diagrams) vividly illustrated to Members of Parliament that soldiers in the Crimea were primarily dying from preventable diseases rather than from wounds sustained in battle, leading to changes in working practices in hospitals that dramatically reduced mortality rates.

Florence Nightingale was a pioneer in the visual representation of data, developing novel and engaging ways of presenting statistics and in 1859 she was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.

Paul Borrows