St. Mary's School

St. Mary's School



Unless the person is able to abstract and define rationally…. they apprehend only a shadow, if anything at all, which is given by opinion and not by science – dreaming and slumbering all their life…

Plato, The Republic, circa 380BC

Mathematics is essential for everyday life in the 21st century. It is critical to science, technology and engineering and is necessary for individual financial literacy and most forms of employment. But as scholars from Plato onwards understood, maths also provides a foundation for reasoning, judgement and genuine understanding of the world around us.

At St Mary’s we believe that a sound understanding of maths is an essential component of a good education and are therefore determined that every child will:

  • enjoy learning mathematics
  • develop competency in key mathematical skills
  • understand how to use maths in real life
  • develop resilience in overcoming problems
  • appreciate the power and beauty of mathematics
  • be prepared, both for Common Entrance and senior school maths

We follow the Heinemann mathematics scheme from Reception to Form 5. In Form 6 we continue to use Heinemann in conjunction with the Independent Schools Examination Board 11+ syllabus. This neatly dovetails into Forms 7 and 8 where we use a range of texts and where there is a clear focus on working towards the ISEB Common Entrance exams as well as support for pupils sitting academic scholarship or entrance exams to independent senior schools.

At St Mary’s we believe that children should be able to work at their own pace in order to build confidence and gain a fuller understanding. This is particularly important in mathematics and so specialist teaching and fluid setting arrangements are put in place from Form 5 onwards. Our sets cover the same material, but those who find maths easy are challenged with more extension work whereas those who find maths difficult benefit from more consolidation.

We always enjoy competitions in the Maths department at St Mary’s. Two that we enter every year are the Merchiston Maths Fun Day for pupils in Form 5 and the UKMT Junior Challenge. The Merchiston fun day is an exciting day of puzzles and maths challenges which is attended by over a hundred of the brightest young mathematicians from prep and primary schools in and around Edinburgh. In the last fun day we were the top placed prep school, but perhaps more important was the good manners and strong team working ethos that shone through in the positive reports from staff involved in helping to run the event.

In April, pupils in Form 7 and 8 take part in the UK Mathematics Trust (UKMT) Junior Challenge. This organisation is based at the University of Leeds and their Junior Challenge is a significant annual event in the mathematics calendar. The paper receives around a quarter of a million entries with only the top 7% gaining a gold certificate of achievement, then the next 13% silver and the next 20% bronze. As the name suggests, the stated aim is to challenge pupils, with problems they may never have encountered before. It is great preparation, not just for our academic scholars, but for all pupils working towards Common Entrance and beyond. In the most recent Junior Challenge we were delighted to secure a total of 12 certificates: 3 bronze, 7 silver and 2 gold. All six of the pupils in our senior top set were successful in achieving a silver or gold award.

UKMT Junior Challenge