We aim to instill in pupils an appreciation of how fascinating, creative, satisfying and useful mathematics can be.
Staff and facilities
The department has 16 members of staff and occupies 11 classrooms. The department is well supplied with computers, interactive whiteboards and other practical equipment.
Subject time per 10-day cycle
- Lower school – six lessons with up to two hours of homework
- GCSE – five lessons with two hours of homework (*current fourth year have seven lessons)
- A-level – 10 lessons with additional individual study (*upper sixth have 11 lessons 2016/2017)
Are pupils put into sets according to ability?
In the first year the pupils are taught in their form groups. Although all pupils have a sufficient level of competency, there seems no upper limit to the ability of a significant number of our intake. Therefore it is our policy to begin setting according to mathematical progress from the second year onwards. Some transferring between sets is possible during the year and it is reviewed fully at the end of each year.
All the teachers in the mathematics department are experienced in dealing with gifted pupils and every year we attract a significant number of particularly able boys and girls. Puzzle club has lunchtime meetings that are relaxed but thought-provoking. The textbooks we use go well beyond public examination syllabuses, and we have a wealth of challenging material for those who make outstanding progress.
Each year we hold inter-form team competitions with the winners going on to represent the school in a national event. The United Kingdom Mathematics Trust (UKMT) organises annual mathematics challenges for junior, intermediate and senior age groups and we enter large numbers of candidates, many of whom are invited to take part in follow-up rounds.
The UKMT runs a mentoring scheme for truly exceptional pupils and teachers in the department supervise individuals working from problem sheets.
Mathematics in the lower school
We hope pupils will settle into the school quickly and at first we will revise a number of topics, like fractions and decimals, which pupils will have covered at junior school. However, for all pupils who need minimal revision, we have lots of extension material, puzzle sheets and investigations, to keep everyone stimulated and stretched. Very soon, however, we launch into the teaching of algebraic techniques. Greater importance is placed on the ability to explain how answers are produced rather than what the answers actually are. Much time is spent on the clear, concise and logical presentation of solutions.
The use of calculators is not encouraged until midway through the second year because we expect our pupils to be very good at mental and pencil-and-paper arithmetic.
Mathematics in the middle school
The compulsory GCSE course in mathematics runs over two years. Pupils are taught in sets with each pupil placed in the set which will enable him or her to achieve the best GCSE grade. What distinguishes one set from another is the pace at which new theory is introduced, absorbed and retained and the same topic may be presented to the sets in different ways.
Pupils in the higher sets also study the Level 2 Certificate in Further Mathematics. Pupils who are below these sets, subject to performance in fourth year, have the opportunity to take the qualification after school in fifth year.
Our sixth formers take the OCR Mathematics course. This comprises of six units which make up one A-level, four of which must be pure Mathematics. The other two are selected from units in Mechanics, Statistics and Discrete Mathematics.
It is recommended that all students taking mathematics at A-level have a grade A or A* at GCSE. The vast majority of candidates at Stockport Grammar School are in this category which enables us to make fast progress and teach beyond the syllabus.
Success in mathematics is dependent on a high standard of proficiency in algebraic techniques and so we recommend that prospective candidates are expecting to attain an A* or A grade at GCSE and that their algebraic skills are particularly sound. The A-level course is demanding and requires consistent application from sixth form pupils.
It is possible to study two A-levels in mathematics. Twelve different units must be chosen in total from the following options: seven Pure, four Mechanics, four Statistics and two Discrete modules. Further Mathematics should not be found more difficult than any other subject, but having gone into such depth, the pupil should not encounter difficulty with A-level mathematics.
Mathematics at university
Mathematics is a versatile subject and affords a sound training in a logical discipline. Those wishing to read mathematics and most forms of engineering at university are advised to study both mathematics and further mathematics at A-level. Pupils who have studied further mathematics in the past have gone on to read subjects such as mathematics, engineering, IT, chemistry and economics. A number of students are prepared for entrance to Oxford and Cambridge universities. Oxford requires prospective mathematics, computer science and physics candidates to sit formal mathematics entrance examinations. The Cambridge colleges make use of their Sixth Term entrance papers.
What else goes on?
We regularly have pupils who qualify for the British Mathematical Olympiad at junior, intermediate and senior levels. We provide encouragement in school for suitable candidates. For several years now we have had representatives in the UK national squad and one has made the team itself. The junior competition provides a challenge for the brightest pupils in the first two years. In addition to the UKMT and FMSP national mathematics competitions, we also enter team mathematics competitions which take place at local universities and have been very successful in recent years. There are open help sessions after school for any middle school and sixth form pupils who need extra help and there are also drop-in lunchtime help sessions once a week for lower school pupils. All pupils are encouraged to see their teacher for any extra help or explanations they need.
Puzzle club is open to all first and second year pupils. Activities are designed to suit all abilities and interests and range from solving riddles, playing strategy games and finding your way through maddening mazes to more creative activities such as making fractals, drawing curves of pursuit, making pop-up cards and even plaiting polyhedra. Mathematics is also very important in cryptography so we enter teams in the National Cipher Challenge and Alan Turing cryptography competitions which run for periods during the year. Pupils find all of these activities and competitions stimulating, a lot of fun and a chance to get to know and work with other pupils.