Joan Clarke Maths Residential at Newnham

Last week we held our Joan Clarke Maths Residential with 30 female A-level students from all over the UK. Judging by the students’ comments, it was a great success!

After an introductory session giving an overview of maths, physics, engineering, computer science and economics, the students had four in-depth sessions spread out over the first three days of the residential. In the pure maths session they learnt about modular arithmetic, the pigeonhole principle and how RSA cryptography works; in applied maths they modelled the Zombie Apocalypse using differential equations. In the Physics sessions they experimented with coordinate systems and GPS signals, and in the Engineering session they built bridges out of drinking straws. In addition to these main sessions, we visited the Fluids Labs in the Centre for Mathematical Sciences, where we experimented with water bombs and a high speed camera; we learnt about the difficulty of making washing liquid bottle caps in a talk about maths in industry; we heard about micromorts and microlifes in David Spiegelhalter’s talk about risk and statistics; and we played around with logic and learned about STEP preparation in a problem-solving session.

The students really enjoyed the sessions and commented how interesting it was to learn something new and different to what they know from school. One of the main aims of this week was to give students more information about university courses which rely on mathematics, so that they will have a better basis for their decisions in the coming months of applying to University.

Another aspect of the week was that the students met other girls who were also good at and interested in mathematics, which is not a given at school. To aid this, there were some evening activities such as a quiz, film night and dinner, as well as one afternoon of punting (successfully avoiding the hail storm earlier in the day!). We could see friendships forming during the week, and we hope that they will carry on even after the end of the residential.

Here are some comments from students on their feedback forms:

I really enjoyed meeting students with the same academic interests as me.”

Although I have been attending a girls’ school for the past seven years, I would really love to attend Newnham – the environment, accommodation and people are all really nice!”

Staff and students were really friendly and very approachable.”


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