Developing exceptional talent in maths

22nd August 2013

News, Student news, Alumni news

Wadham welcomed twelve young mathematicians, aged between 16 and 18, to a week-long mathematics masterclass this August.

  • Dr David Conlon (right) with participants in the Mathematics Masterclass

  • Andrea Iorga, 18, from Romania

    Andrea Iorga, 18, from Romania

  • Lucas Mann, 18, from Germany

    Lucas Mann, 18, from Germany

  • Leon Ochmann, 16, from Germany

    Leon Ochmann, 16, from Germany

Because of the structure of the course I am going home with the ambition to learn more and investigate those problems which I could not solve. Before visiting Oxford I did not think about applying but this trip makes it seem very near.

Leon Ochmann, 16, from Germany

This inaugural masterclass gave talented young European secondary school students the opportunity to spend a week in Wadham College learning mathematics through a mixture of lectures and tutorials, and discovering what life as an Oxford student would be like.

Wadham’s distinctive history of maths research and teaching, with a Fellowship that includes Sir Roger Penrose amongst its esteemed mathematicians, made the College an ideal venue for the event.

Andrea Iorga, 18, from Romania commented: “It has been one of the best experiences in my life – spending seven weeks away from my parents studying maths… I now want to apply to Oxford later this year.”

Lucas Mann, 18, from Germany added: “I have learned a lot in terms of how to approach a problem, how to see patterns and how to prove something. I have enjoyed it very much.”

Leon Ochmann, 16, also from Germany agreed, saying: “Because of the structure of the course I am going home with the ambition to learn more and investigate those problems which I could not solve. Before visiting Oxford I did not think about applying but this trip makes it seem very near.”

The program is linked with PROMYS, a well-established mathematics summer program catering for talented secondary school students which runs at Boston University each summer. Working with the University of Oxford and the Clay Institute, 

Exceptional students were selected from all over Europe to attend the six-week PROMYS programme, and then to study at Wadham for a further week,  focusing their work in Oxford on the area of mathematics known as combinatorics.

The chosen students were offered full scholarships covering both the Boston and Oxford parts of the programme, with travel costs and expenses in Boston covered by the Clay Mathematics Institute, while local costs in Oxford were covered by a generous donation from a Wadham alumnus.

The program in Oxford consisted of a mixture of lectures given by Wadham Fellow, Dr David Conlon and tutorials guided by two experienced tutors from PROMYS.

Dr Conlon commented: "It was a pleasure to teach such highly motivated students. Their level of devotion to solving the problem sets was quite extraordinary and I was very impressed at the work they produced."

The program was followed by a short conference on the Development of Exceptional Talent in Mathematics, hosted by the Clay Maths Institute.

PROMYS is a six-week summer program at Boston University designed to encourage strongly motivated high school students to explore in depth the creative world of mathematics in a supportive community of peers, counsellors, research mathematicians, and visiting scientists.

It was a pleasure to teach such highly motivated students. Their level of devotion to solving the problem sets was quite extraordinary and I was very impressed at the work they produced

Dr David Conlon