St John’s Maths Study Day 2020

Back in March (and what now seems an altogether different time) I helped to organise the second annual St John’s State School Maths Study Day. It was a great success with over 50 Year 12 students attending from across the UK. Here is the news article from the college website.

“Our Study Days offer high-achieving Year 12 students at non-selective state schools an opportunity to experience higher level study in their chosen subject. Participants at our study days attend talks and workshops led by tutors, find out more about the course at Oxford and what tutors are looking for, and meet current St John’s students. You can find out more about Study Days here.”

The day began with a talk about Oxford admissions and studying Maths at Oxford, given by Dominique Simpson from the College’s Access and Outreach team. Afterwards, Dr Tom Crawford gave a lecture about Mathematics and sport, teaching us how Maths can be exploited to improve abilities in football, marathons and other sports. Following a short break, Dr James Munro, Outreach Officer at the Mathematical Institute, discussed the Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT), which is an important part of the application process for candidates wishing to study Mathematics and joint schools at Oxford. With the help of current Maths undergraduates from St John’s, St Edmund Hall and St Hugh’s, students were divided into groups and worked on MAT questions together.

After lunch in Kendrew Café and a tour around the College, students watched a mock interview with current students. Our Study Day participants were able to see that the interview was just like a mini-tutorial, and the consensus was that it was a far less intimidating process than they had initially thought! The students then walked up to the Mathematical Institute and had a tour of the faculty, before listening to Dr Bernadette Stolz-Pretzer’s captivating lecture: Using Topology to Model Tumours. The lecture demonstrated the real-world applications of Maths, particularly for quantifying shape in blood vessel networks and how this can provide new insights into cancer research.

Following an insightful day of lectures, workshops and talks, the students had the opportunity, over tea and cake, to speak to current undergraduates and tutors and ask further questions about studying Maths at Oxford.

We received some wonderful feedback from the participants, including:

‘There is a very nice sense of community amongst the students and the lecturers’

‘I enjoyed touring both the college and the mathematical institute. […] My opinion [of Oxford] has changed, from it being an overly formal setting with emphasis on absolute prestige and perfection, to a welcoming and friendly environment with people eager to help’

‘The topology lecture was fascinating – it showed an application to a subject that seemed abstract to me, and crossovers between Maths and Biology. […] I had already wanted to apply, but the people were so much friendlier than I thought!’

‘I enjoyed the MAT group work – I got to speak to and work with like-minded individuals.’

When asked about their favourite parts of the day, some of the responses were:

‘The tour around the college, because it gave an honest, well-rounded student perspective of what they like about living and studying here’

‘Looking at various ways to solve MAT problems. It is interesting to see how the same problem can be tackled using such a wide variety of approaches’.

Many thanks to everyone involved in making the Maths Study Day an informative and enjoyable event!

The original article is here.

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