Mathematics plays a central role in the boys' education at Whitgift. It is an essential skill for the pupils, teaching them good work practices, and is often of great benefit to other subjects. The pupils enjoy the rigour and discipline needed to tackle the trickier problems, and thrive under the high expectations set by the Department. We enter all pupils into the IGCSE, and they all expect a high grade. Over two-thirds of the boys continue the subject in the Sixth Form, and, for many, their study becomes central to their university application. The fact that so many pupils choose Mathematics in the Sixth Form is testament to a dynamic and hard-working department, who manage to engage the pupils at the right level and allow them to achieve their potential.
The Mathematics Department aims to have high expectations of all pupils and to differentiate effectively, so that all pupils are appropriately challenged. We wish to instil in all boys a love and understanding of Mathematics, whatever their ability level, and to ensure they achieve their potential.
Pupils take the Edexcel International Mathematics GCSE in the Fifth Form, followed by OCR (MEI) A Levels or the IB in the Sixth Form. There are 50 boys who sit the IGCSE a year early in the Lower Fifth, and go on to study some higher level and extension Mathematics in the Upper Fifth, and they currently sit the OCR Additional Mathematics course alongside their IGCSE.
The Department employs a range of teaching methods. We are quite formal in our introduction of algebra, and we encourage rigorous and well set out solutions from the outset. We achieve excellent results by keeping pupils interested and showing why Mathematics is important in the real world. We use ICT a great deal, along with different puzzles and games, which encourage pupils to search for patterns and explore their own ideas.
Schemes of work
There are two broad aims for Mathematics in the Lower School. The first is to instil a familiarity with the main ideas of Number and Shape and Space. The second aim is to introduce some of the ideas of more Formal Mathematics, in particular, using a letter to stand for a number and solving linear equations. Mental arithmetic plays a large part in the Lower School. In the Upper School, we focus on exam entry and developing a larger range of mathematical techniques. We cover the Edexcel IGCSE course in the Fifth Form, along with the accelerated Upper Fifth pupils taking on the OCR Additional Mathematics course. In the Sixth Form, we cover the OCR Mathematics course at AL or the IB.
We enter a number of competitions, including the Mathematics Challenges (Junior, Intermediate and Senior), Team Mathematics Challenges (Junior and Senior), and the Hans Woyda Mathematics Competition for London schools. We have been particularly successful recently, including reaching the national finals for the Junior Team Mathematics Challenge and also many boys qualifying for the Olympiad rounds in the Mathematics Challenges.
We have established a biennial trip, where around 30 of the most able boys from across the Upper School attend a residential trip to Cambridge. Each time we cover a range of different topics, including proof, BMO and IMO questions, conic sections, maths of bubbles and shortest path problems. We also visited Cambridge University and attended a lecture from one of the fellows at Trinity College. The top set Lower Fifth pupils also attended a day of lectures at the Institute for Education, London, during the Lent Term.
Many boys go on to study Mathematics or a related degree course, and the Department provides excellent support for any boy wishing to study this subject at university. In the last two years we have had four boys accept places at Oxford and Cambridge to study Mathematics.
We have had a number of visiting speakers in recent years, including Alex Bellos, Matt Parker and Simon Singh.