Further Maths student Rebecca on why maths at Ada is like no where else.
Mathematics was never my favourite. I disfavoured the equations that were made to be memorised, the methods that had to be remembered, and the rigorous tests that were given to us. Going through secondary school, I would put in the bare minimum needed to just pass. I was hoping to at least pass maths for my GCSEs and not to pursue it any further after year 11. In my year 11 mock exams, I sat the maths exams with no revision, aiming for a C. The day our teacher gave back our exams, mine was handed to me face down. Upon turning it over I saw an ‘F’ on the front. I had 6 months until my real exams and I was failing. If I didn't pass I’d have to retake it in college and I didn't want to pursue maths any more than I had to. I started dedicating a huge chunk of my days to practising maths, following every topic in the specification, making sure I understood them. My next mock exams were 2 months before my real GCSEs, I was so confident, after trying so hard with revision and dedicating so much time for a subject I disliked massively, I should get at least a C. When I got my paper back, it was handed to me face down again. I turned it over to see a ‘D’. I had tried so hard and still had not even passed.
I decided to be even more thorough, I would stay late in school going through questions on whiteboards, watching solutions online, going through as many past papers as I could. After taking my first maths GCSE, I walked out of the exam so confident I had not passed. On results day, I opened my results expecting the worst, I looked and saw ‘Mathematics’, and next to it was an ‘A’. I was so surprised, I had worked so hard trying to get just a ‘C’ and I had come out with an ‘A’. Since I had gotten this far in maths, I decided to choose it as a subject to do when applying for Ada.
Maths at Ada was nothing like I expected it to be. In secondary school, we were taught to do things in steps without knowing why, or the applications of it to real life. In secondary, we were taught that, to complete the square of a quadratic, we half the x coefficient and put it into brackets, square the second number and simplify outside the brackets. We were taught simply an order of steps to follow without understanding the true concept of completing the square.
At Ada, the teachers were different. Topics were not started by showing the steps to solve something and memorizing it, but instead, our teacher, without fail, explains every concept, how it works, and why it works the way it does so we’re not just learning things to pass our exams but to genuinely develop a deep understanding of the topic we’re learning. I enjoyed the maths at Ada so much, I wanted to pursue further mathematics at A-level, but at this point during the year, the further maths class was already a third of the way through their specification and to join I would have to complete section tests on most of the topics already completed by the other further maths students and get over 70% on them.
I was so determined to get into the class I dedicated most of my time to learning all these new topics, doing enough questions until I was confident to complete the section tests online. I had the support of the current further maths students to explain any parts of the course I had difficulty understanding, and the support of the maths teachers who would always help me when I needed it. The encouragement I received to keep going was huge and drove me to keep going, even when I got overwhelmed, until I finished all exams. In the end, I completed all exams all over 70% and I’m now part of the further maths class at Ada.
Maths has helped me massively within my current school work, it assists me in programming as it has made me see certain topics and questions in a more algorithmic way. For me, it's an objective subject in which mistakes are not made. I may get an attempt wrong but that then gives me the knowledge to correct the mistake which just gives way to further understanding of the subject.
Maths was one of my least favourite subjects and I would dread going to the classes, but now it's my favourite subject and I aspire to do a degree in university for Mathematics.
Read Head of Maths Ian Dickerson on Technology in the Maths A-Level