From Apprentice to Master

A year ago I met Desmond a few times in a cafe, to struggle through some STEP problems, in preparation for his university applications.

Now, he is getting ready to leave London, to study Maths at Oxford. Before he left, he came to Six21 and spent two hours with the 11 Further Mathematicians, leading them down his merry path of algebraic problem-solving.

The explanations were sometimes confusing and fast, but this small sacrifice was easily worth it for the benefits:

  • The students responded so well to a leader only a few years their senior (Desmond called the boys “bro”, and could get away with it).
  • The students felt comfortable enough to repeatedly ask for explanations – “I still don’t get it”.
  • Excellent role-model for high uni aspirations. “You all have the GCSE grades to get into Oxbridge for Maths. All you need now is to work hard”
  • Start the exposure to tricky STEP questions and the associated tricks (add and takeaway something disgusting to an expression to reveal something simple after all). Final thing Desmond said to me: “Make sure you do loads of STEP questions with your students”

All 11 students decided to stay for an extra half-hour after the end of school to try and finish the final problem (prove that any number pq, where p and q are primes greater than 2, can be written as difference of two squares in exactly two ways). Great testament to Desmond’s session.

Best of luck for the future Desmond!


Questions: (could also use this)

(20172 – 20162 + 20152 – 20142)/(2017 + 2016 + 2015 + 2014)


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