The Kürschák/Eötvös Mathematical Competition is the oldest modern mathematical competition in the world, founded in 1894.  It takes place in Hungary, a country which, like many of its Eastern European neighbours, has a long tradition of excellence in mathematics education.  You may have even heard of a Hungarian mathematician, Zoltán Dienes, who created base 10 or Dienes blocks, as they are commonly called.  (Remember the wooden hundreds, tens and units blocks? We still make use of them, though disappointingly they tend to be made out of plastic rather than wood.)

In Hungary, academic success in mathematics was, and is still, seen as something worth striving for and deserving of praise.  In the UK we haven’t tended to view success in mathematics in quite the same way.  Instead, we have historically tended to look upon success in maths with a touch of suspicion; noteworthy certainly, but also perhaps a little odd.  Maybe it is for this reason it took us a bit longer to get around to organising a mathematical competition of our own. The first British Mathematical Olympiad took place in the 1960s but was still very much the preserve of the few.  It was not until the late 1980s, under the leadership of Tony Gardiner (whose books can be found in many of the maths classrooms at Vinehall), that participation in maths competitions in the UK grew to involve significant numbers of pupils.

Most maths competitions in the UK are now run by the United Kingdom Maths Trust.  They include the Junior Mathematical Challenge, for pupils in Years 7 and 8, the Intermediate Mathematical Challenge, for pupils in Years 9, 10 and 11, and the Senior Mathematical Challenge, for pupils in Years 12 and 13.  Over 700,000 pupils enter each of these competitions, and they are the UK’s most popular school competitions.  Each of the competitions has follow-on rounds for the highest-scoring pupils. Vinehall has entered the Junior Mathematical Challenge, which takes place on April, for many years.

This year, for the first time, Vinehall entered a number of pupils for the Intermediate Mathematical Challenge.  Given that this competition is intended for pupils in Years 9, 10 and 11, Vinehall pupils did very well indeed, with Milly D, George S, Izzie S and Gryff W each being awarded Bronze certificates, and Nathan L and Zuriel N each awarded a Silver certificate.  Nathan also made it through to one of the follow-on rounds later this term.

As well as individual competitions, the UKMT also organises team competitions and next week Milly D, Nathan L, Zuriel N and Izzie S will be representing Vinehall at the Regional Final of the Team Maths Challenge, which is taking place at Robertsbridge Community College.  The Team Maths Challenge involves a number of rounds, including a Group Round, Crossnumber, Shuttle and Relay.  Most teams that take part are made up of two Year 8 and two Year 9 pupils, so teams from prep schools are always at a disadvantage, but we will be aiming for a respectable finish in the top half of the table!

Paul Borrows