a picture of a teacher helping a student in class

There is a great mathematical tradition at King Edward’s School and our most notable mathematician to date is Richard Borcherds, winner of the Fields Medal, the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Continuing that tradition, two teams of mathematicians have previously won the Senior Team Maths Challenge by gaining a perfect score in the National Finals and overcoming 1,000 school teams from across the UK along the way. Our students also regularly go on to thrive in university courses that demand and develop mathematicians at the highest levels.

In Year 7, students are taught Maths in their form group. They are lightly setted for Year 8, with increasing refinement on the levels of setting through Year 9, 10 and 11, as they work towards IGCSE Mathematics.

We have built our own bespoke syllabus in the Lower School, which aims to lay the foundations for the more intricate maths to come as well as develop skills of problem solving, persistence and using technology to support solutions that the later courses will value.

The Head of Lower School Maths is Miss Miszkurka.

All students enter for the Higher tier of IGCSE Maths (Edexcel) and their excellent results are a strong platform for future challenges. From Year 10, students in the top three sets also study AQA IGCSE Further Mathematics (Level 2) as an additional qualification, taught in an accelerated fashion. It is perfectly acceptable for students who are not in these top three sets to pursue maths at the highest levels thereafter, provided they demonstrate their commitment on a less direct path: all of our sets at IGCSE have ambitions towards the highest grades and the setting in Year 10 reflects what pace of learning Mathematics that the students have been most comfortable with.

The Head of Middle School Maths is Mr Burdett. 

All students continue to study mathematics as part of the IB Diploma, choosing one of the three principal maths courses.

Higher Level Analysis & Approaches is a rigorous, stimulating and challenging problem-solving course, which is designed to meet the needs of those who intend to pursue careers in the sciences, mathematics, economics, computation, engineering and technology.

Higher Level Applications & Interpretations is as mathematically sophisticated, but focuses more on how maths is used, and is designed for students whose later pursuit of the subject will be focused more on using maths, rather than deriving it.

For all of those not taking Higher Level Maths, Standard Level Applications & Interpretations is a detailed course for those without a preference for mathematics along with those whose future plans do not specifically require knowledge of areas of maths, keeping the maths from GCSE in play. It develops skills for using the maths students have learned so far in various real world situations, both practical and academic, adding in some more content to deepen their understanding.

On Friday afternoons, for the most keen and able mathematicians, we run a supplementary Further Mathematics Higher Level course that runs till after school. This is aimed at those with plans to study maths in the future, as well as those with inclinations towards natural sciences, physics or engineering at the very top universities, allowing them to play with more of the subject, as well as prepare for the many university tests that may arise.

The Head of IB Maths is Mr Pearson. 

Future careers

There are few, if any, university courses or employers who are displeased to see that a student has studied mathematics to advanced levels. Courses that reward students with the capacity to master a playbook and then use those skills to solve various problems (practical or theoretical), are increasingly valued in the modern world. The greatest single employer of mathematicians remains GCHQ, but study of maths closes no doors and, if you enjoy the subject, we encourage you to pursue it as far as you can.

Beyond the classroom

Most students sit one of the annual Maths Challenge papers each year, with many qualifying for the ensuing Olympiads. Dr Strabic works with students who show interest and aptitude for such challenges and works with them outside of lessons in various forms, based on age.

These events also link with various external challenges and qualifications, from the exciting Ritangle Challenge through to STEP preparation. Regular trips to mathematical events run, whilst in recent years we have had top mathematicians visit to give lectures on the exciting bits of maths that run beyond the syllabuses.

Meet the Head of Faculty

Mr Shepherd

Mr Shepherd has been a Head of Maths for 17 years at the International School of Milan, Kings’ Chester, and King Edward’s School since 2014. He has also taught at King Edward VI Five Ways and Bradford Grammar School. Mr Shepherd has spent a lot of time in education, having studied Maths and Statistics at St Andrews, growing up in a family of teachers, and even marrying a Classics teacher. However, he has never worked in a better school or with a better department. Maths at KES is challenging, exciting, and of crucial importance to preparing boys for the years ahead, and seeing them lean into their geekier roots counts amongst the department’s greatest pleasures.

Mr Shepherd runs the Schools’ Challenge at the school and, as a huge film nerd, offers occasional pearls of wisdom to the boys who cheerfully run the Visual Media Society. He enjoys writing about cinema (with occasional articles in Film Stories’ magazine and website) and, if not at the pictures, he’ll be listening to film scores, or playing them on his violin with The Film Orchestra.

Neil Shepherd at King Edward’s School, Birmingham on Friday 13 October 2023.

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