Measuring success in chains and Maths Scholars

There are only 100 assessment centre places left for potential Maths Scholars

We are all taught how to measure from an early age and certainly I remember being absolutely desperate to be ever so slightly older and taller.  I would still like to be a little bit taller now, but given that I have not grown for the best part of 30 years I think my chances are small.  I am no longer worried about being a little bit older (but neither do I wish to be any younger!)

Measuring is something we all become accustomed to in our everyday life

We become adept at switching between scales and incorporating our own knowledge.  It is only a few miles to my local train station, which I know should take no more than 10 minutes if I can go at the speed limit.  The big issue is the “if”.  Of course I can go at the speed limit at about 3am.  The only time I am likely to be able to go at the speed limit at 6am is on a bank holiday.  I know to a pretty robust degree of accuracy how long the trip will take depending on the exact time I manage to get into my car.  I’m also of the generation that learnt to bake in pounds and ounces but have only ever known the metric money system.  My dad made sure I could lay out a cricket pitch in chains and that I could swiftly calculate the chains into feet and then metres.  You never know when such a skill will come in handy!

crop field

How many Maths Scholars in a barleycorn?

The point is that all of these measurements are numerical and there is a scale.  It is easy to forget that scales are often rooted in history and are not linear.  For example shoe sizes are based on barleycorns (after the harvest) and each shoe size equates to a barleycorn bigger, which is set at a quarter of an inch. 

How then do you measure the success of something that is not numerical?  

If you Google “measuring project success” there are a multitude of methods to ensure a project success can be defined.  Not all are numerical, but many were still measurable.  Whilst I enjoyed reading many of the articles, I realised that measuring the success of the Maths Teacher Training Scholarship Scheme is not easy and takes some lateral thinking.  Of course there are the simple numerical measurements, for example this year we’ve had more applicants than we’ve ever had in any other year and it’s only April.  This means we’re putting on more assessment centres than we’ve ever had before.  In fact we have now reached our capacity for putting on assessment centres and have allocated over three quarters of the available spaces.  There are now fewer than 100 spaces remaining. But these values alone do not show the overall success of the scheme.


It is the intangible elements to the scheme which show the true success and it of course down to the people – in this case the teachers, specifically our alumni: those teachers who will be remembered for all the right reasons.  You can’t easily count the number of students who will remember a teacher as being “all right” or “the one who helped me understand percentages.”  Neither can you easily count smiles in a classroom, the “a-ha!” moments nor slow and steady changes to pupils’ inner confidence or self-belief.  Perhaps that is the nub of the problem.  The slow and at times imperceptible changes to the perception of maths.  It will take years to achieve but our scholars and alumni are helping create a bow wave that will make a difference.  That is the true measure of success. 

To apply for a Maths Scholars Scholarship award then begin right here but you had better be quick!

Dr Sophie Carr CMath CSci MIMA MRAeS