Which Three Mathematicians Should Your Students Learn About?

By Damien Clarke

This question, which was asked to candidate Scholars in the interview portion of the assessment centre encapsulates for me the purest essence of the assessment. As a precursor, interviewers were perfectly clear that there could be no such thing as a right, or wrong, answer - candidates were actively encouraged to allow their own personal opinions to form the basis of their responses to the question.

So why was this such an integral part of the process for me? This same ethos, i.e. the calm, fun, relaxed atmosphere in which personal preference experience was allowed to reign, was so obviously clear throughout the entire assessment afternoon. The group discussion session - centred around the topic of distinguishing numeracy from mathematics - is another readily available example: whilst the flow of discussion was somewhat guided by the assessors, candidates were never made to feel as though they were speaking out of turn, nor that anything they said was ‘wrong’ or irrelevant; everyone who spoke was given plenty of opportunities to develop their points, even if they occasionally drifted off topic.

Since I seem to have begun talking about the assessment day in a rather jumbled order, I figure I may as well continue with it now! Another wonderful example of the fun and relaxed atmosphere offered by the assessors on the assessment day comes in the form of the mini-teach session. Prior to the event, candidates were asked to prepare a five-minute talk to answer the question ‘why should I learn about (insert subject)?’ I gave my talk about trigonometry, and ended up waxing lyrical about rockets, and about the game of football! Other candidate scholars in my group gave a number talks about subjects ranging from probability to quadratic equations. Each of the talks was succeeded with a short feedback session, typically constituted of very relaxed discussion - and more than a little friendly jealousy regarding the quality of examples offered by other candidates, especially on my part!

As a testament to the roaring joviality of the assessment centre, I’d like to round off this recap by recounting a short story about how friendships are so effortlessly born out of these events. At the time, my assessment group was comprised of myself, an acquaintance from my undergraduate days, and several strangers. By the end of the event, I left with an entire group of new friends. whom I now keep in regular contact with. In fact, I now take my PGCE course in Manchester, alongside one of the girls from my assessment centre, and I still have a very active, fun, and massively supportive Facebook group chat with all of the other scholars from the centre!