The Mathematics Department at Collingham has an extremely high reputation, combining academic rigour with a broad vision of the subject’s relevance to many aspects of human experience.
Why study Maths?
Mathematics is at once inestimably ancient – for no one will ever know who first put one stone after another, and then another after those, and so began to count – and thoroughly modern. Today its theorems are too many to number: what began as crude reckoning has been amplified and extended in ways inconceivable to that first arithmetician. The great physicists have used it to peer into the quantum world and out to the edges of the universe. Philosophers since Plato have seen it as a source of metaphysical problems and reasoning techniques. There is hardly an engineer or an architect who has not put his trust in its predictive power. It is part, too, of our wider culture: Tolstoy’s Confession, Waugh’s Decline and Fall, the compositions of Xenakis – all would be different had mathematics not existed.
For as long as humans continue to wonder, to invent, to measure and to make, mathematics will be important: the student of A level Mathematics may be a beginner, but he or she is beginning something that offers infinite scope for intellectual enrichment. Mathematics provides a good grounding in the techniques needed for successful careers in finance, actuarial science, computer programming and engineering, while for the very able there is no surer route to immortality than to prove a great theorem: the man or woman who establishes Goldbach’s conjecture or verifies the Riemann hypothesis will be remembered long after prime ministers, film stars and footballers have been forgotten.
Despite the advent of the personal computer and the sophisticated pocket calculator, mathematics remains an activity best pursued with pencil and paper: there is no better way to come to terms with an argument or a calculation than to rework it for oneself. Implicit in this view is another: that the student who is unable to dispense with his teacher’s help is unlikely to be either happy or successful. As far as possible, therefore, mathematics teaching at Collingham is designed to bring students to the point where they can think for themselves. We regard the ability to solve problems as essential, and our students will work many hundreds of them while they are with us.
For AS and prospective A level candidates alike, the academic year begins with two compulsory units of pure mathematics, and ends with a single unit of decision mathematics, mechanics or statistics; the choice is the student’s.
Those who perform well in the AS level examination may proceed to the A level, which requires a further year of preparation. The structure of this second year of study is the same as that of the first; the level, naturally, is a little higher. The ablest students may supplement A level Mathematics with A level Further Mathematics. This qualification is again constructed unit by unit, and consists of foundation material for university courses in the mathematical sciences.
Preferred Board: Edexcel