Reporter 407, 6 October 1997

UK Maths Challenges

A four-digit number was written on a piece of paper. The last two digits were blotted out (as shown). If the complete number is exactly divisible by three, by four, and by five, what is the sum of the two missing digits?

8 6

A. 4 B. 6 C. 7 D. 9 E. 14

(Answer below article)

The brain teaser above is from the 1997 UK Junior Mathematical Challenge, a national competition for schools aimed at children in Years 7 and 8 (i.e. aged 12 and 13). This event and its counterpart for older children, the UK Intermediate Mathematical Challenge for Years 9-11, are currently administered in the specially-created UK Maths Challenges Office at the University of Leeds.

Both are 60 minute papers with 25 multiple choice questions covering a wide range of mathematical topics. They are designed to stimulate interest in mathematics by being unusual, thought-provoking and enjoyable.

The Junior and Intermediate Challenges were set up in 1988 by Dr Tony Gardiner at the University of Birmingham and have grown under his direction into major national events with more than 120,000 entrants each from around 2,000 schools in England, Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland (approximately one third of the eligible schools in the UK).

The Challenges became so successful that in mid-1996 the UK Maths Challenges Office was created within the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds, with a full-time administrator, to provide the level of organisational support required by events of this scale. An entry fee of 50p per child covers the costs of running the Challenges.

The questions are written by a team of school-teachers with considerable experience of dealing with the relevant age group. This group is convened by Dr Tony Gardiner, the originator of the competitions.

Many activities must then be completed to ensure the Challenges work successfully. Entry forms must be despatched, entries processed, question papers and all other relevant materials and instructions sent to schools at the right time, the scripts marked using an Optical Mark Reader, and results and prize-winners' certificates returned to schools.

The 1997 Challenges were the first to be administered from the new UK Maths Challenges Office, and were highly successful. A priority for 1998 is to bring the competition to the attention of many more schools, and persuade them to enter!

The Maths Challenges Office is also to lend significant administrative support to the equivalent competition for 6th formers, the UK Senior Mathematical Challenge (formerly the National Mathematics Contest run by the Mathematical Association). This support will be given for the 1997 competition in November, with a view to even greater involvement in 1998.

Further information about the Challenges can be obtained from the Administrator, Heather Macklin, at the UK Maths Challenges Office in the School of Mathematics.

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