On 20th February two teams of Year 10 Maths students headed to City of Norwich School for the annual Maths Feast Competition run by the Further Maths Support Programme. This is the first time Northgate have entered the competition and students and staff alike were filled with nerves and excitement. The Maths Feast is ‘an enjoyable and challenging team competition testing mathematical, team-working and communication skills. Each year the format of the competition changes slightly so that the rounds remain interesting and exciting.’ It is called Maths Feast due to names of the rounds – amuse-bouche, main, dessert and petit four!
It wasn’t just a case of turning up on the day for our two teams, hard work and preparation went into the competition, with students attending ‘training’ sessions at lunch times in the four weeks prior to the competition. This allowed them to get a flavour of what the different rounds might entail using resources from previous years and practice materials provided. The difficulty was that the practice material was intended to be a guide as to the sort of rounds to expect at the Maths Feast, however they told us that ‘the competition is designed to challenge students and teams should expect surprises!’
On the morning of the competition there was a quick team talk and students sorted out their final teams, Olly, David, Lucy and Lucy making up Team A and Rose, Arran, Ashton and Kayla making up the Team B.
We arrived in plenty of time and waited for the other schools before we started. There were 18 teams in total. The first round was titled, ‘What, no words?’. It consisted of 8 problems which as the title suggests had no words with them. It was a case of figuring out from the pictures what we had to do. Some questions were related to algebra whilst others were about comparing fractions and percentages. There was a question about measurements and more visual questions. This round mainly saw the team split into two pairs to tackle the problems and then checking each other’s’ for errors. There were 25 minutes available but it soon flew by. After some quite challenging questions, Team A clocked up a very impressive 18 out of 24 and Team B got 19.
It was then straight onto the second round, ‘Problems, Problems’. There were six problems to solve and teams could hand in a maximum of 4 to be marked. These were related to real life problems and so covered a range of mathematical skills. They required careful thought, working out and communication. The question was, ‘do we attempt all 6 and pick the best 4 or just focus on doing 4 questions really well?’ It turns out that timing was a real issue and limited what we were able to do. This was definitely a more challenging round and was difficult to complete. Marks were awarded for method but the smallest mistake meant marks were easily lost. Team A picked up another 4 marks and Team B scored 6.
We hardly had time to sit back and it was onto the third round. This one, bizarrely, focussed on beer mats! More specifically, a beer mat was to be designed and sectioned into 4 by drawing along each diagonal. The first problem was to see how many different ways there were of colouring the sections using 4 colours. It turns out there are 6! We were then given the 6 coloured beer mats and had to fit them together to create a cube so that edges matched colours – this was definitely one for the more visual students! A few more questions were based on this cube giving a possible 19 marks in total. Teams found this one tricky, again because there was so little time to complete each part but Team A managed to gain a further 9 points and Team B a further 11.
The fourth and final round was called ‘Hexaquiz’ and there were lots of bonus points available for this round. Problems involved working out values of particular letters then using these values in other problems. They covered a wide range of different Maths topics. The concept was quite confusing but both our teams were at a slight advantage as in one of the training sessions we had looked at a similar problem! This round resulted in Team A gaining 9 points and Team B 15 points.
Overall, Team A finished on 40 points and Team B on 51 points. Unfortunately we didn’t win the competition; the top spot went to a team from Hethersett. We were not even told where we placed in the competition, however it was a good experience for all who took part, challenging the mathematical thinking, team work and communication. The general consensus from the Northgate students was that the first round was the most straight forward and this certainly gave our teams a good start. They found round 2 and 3 most challenging purely due to the time constraint.
Thank you to Miss Theobald for organising the trip and along with Mrs Smith for helping at the ‘training sessions’. Thanks also to Dr Gollop for attending the competition.