On 6th February 2020, the annual Intermediate Maths Challenge took place.

Open to anyone in year 11 or below, the Intermediate Maths Challenge is designed to “make students think” whilst encouraging “mathematical reasoning, precision of thought and fluency”-as stated on the UKMT website.

It is an exam comprising of 25 challenging yet accessible questions placed in order of difficulty. For the first 15, you get 5 marks if correct, and for 16-25, due to a higher difficulty level, you get 6 marks. But it comes with a cost. For questions 16-20, if you get it wrong you lose one mark and for 21-25, you lose two.

Some people oppose this system of marking, thinking that you shouldn’t lose any marks for getting it wrong. This is because it goes against the principle that you should be praised for having a go. However, it is to ensure candidates don’t guess and then get a certificate out of luck; encouraging you to think carefully about the question before answering.

So what happens afterwards? UKMT, the charity that run the event, award certificates to the top 40% of participants in the ratio of 1:2:3 (gold:silver:bronze). Approximately, the 7% with the highest scores get gold, then the next 13% get silver and the remaining 20% get bronze. Some candidates with the most exceptional scores are also invited to take part in additional competitions and a summer school.

UKMT also offer solo competitions for pupils in year 8 and below, the Junior Maths Challenge. In addition, there is one for students in year 13 or below, the Senior Maths Challenge. They also organise team competitions, first regional and then nationals for the teams who qualify.

A student in year 10 of Langley Park School for Girls, who was awarded a silver certificate and best in year, offered her opinion: “I think the maths challenge is a good opportunity for students to practise their problem solving and it doesn’t involve intense revision before hand, so everyone has an equal chance.” When asked about how it felt getting silver, she replied “I was overwhelmed to get silver and enjoy doing the maths challenge every year as it is a different way to use maths compared to normal,” showing how it is a very rewarding experience.

Another student believes that the maths challenge “allows an opportunity for mathematical thinking and reasoning not covered in lessons and encourages you to think more deeply into maths and challenge its initial perceptions”. It may help get more people to consider maths as a career option or A level choice.

If you would like to see how you would fare in the challenge, head to https://www.ukmt.org.uk/competitions/solo/intermediate-mathematical-challenge/archive for past papers and solutions.

By Amelia Downs