The Maths Students' Winning Streak

Earlier this year we reported how delighted we were when our maths students proved to be best in the country by winning the national finals of the UK Maths Trust Senior Team Maths competition.

Upon receiving their trophy they were informed that an invitiation to represent the UK at the Italian Team Maths competition could be on the cards. This month, Michael Minshall, Jake Morris, Alice Haynes, Ed Kirkby, James Lowe, Gina Curwen and Beth Martin (pictured) returned to College from Italy having done themselves and their country proud. The Italians had also invited a Czech, Hungarian and Romanian team to the event, who had similarly won a competition in their respective countries.

The 2 hour competition was made up of 24 extremely tough maths questions, all initially worth 20 points.  However, you lost 10 points if you answered one incorrectly. To add to this pressure, every time a question was answered wrongly and every minute till one team submitted a correct answer, the points would increase for a question.  There were also bonus points if you were one of the first teams to answer a question correctly.  This complicated scoring system meant tactics were needed to decide when to answer a question.

Our UK team also had to adapt to an unusually noisy environment. The setting of the competition was a basketball stadium holding a large crowd, with an excitable Italian commentator who was somewhat distracting for our team who simply were not used to maths being a spectator sport! Live results of each team’s progress were on display so that everyone could be part of the excitement and the commentator encouraged loud cheers from the crowd, especially each time an Italian team progressed further.

This format meant that it was even more of an achievement for our team to come 7th in their semi-final and subsequently qualify for the final. More hard work saw them finish in an extremely respectable 5th place having been narrowly pipped to the post for 4th. About 100 Italian teams had progressed to the semi-finals and over 30 teams were in the final. Alton College beat all other non-Italian teams including the elite Maths school from Hungary.

In addition to the team event, Ed Kirkby entered an individual 4½ hour challenge and won a gold medal by scoring 33 out of a possible 42 marks – yet another well-deserved, excellent achievement.

Dave Lynch, Head of Maths at Alton College and who lead the trip to Italy, was thrilled with the performance of his team. He told the students: “You've done me, your College, your country and particularly yourselves proud. There are not many people who can say they've successfully represented their country, but you can! Well done!”

It wasn’t all hard work in Italy though. The group managed to fit in time to visit various tourist sites and to relax on the beach – treats they very much deserved.

Funding for transport to Italy was gratefully received from the Alton College Foundation and the UK Maths Trust; and accommodation and food was provided by the host country.