Please talk to me as though I'm 2 - guidance about Cambridge for Maths

(80 Posts)
AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 20:12:56

Hi - I'm completely in the dark about how to go about supporting DS2 who is in the first year of Sixth Form doing Maths, Further Maths, French and Music. He is saying that he would like to do Maths at Cambridge but I have no idea where to start in terms of what he should be doing at the moment to help his chances of getting there.
He goes to a state comprehensive and as the Maths teacher confirmed to me today, no one has gone to Oxbridge to do Maths. Very few have gone to Oxbridge at all. I love his school, some of the departments are excellent, the pastoral care is great, but one of the weaknesses is the maths department.
Purely by chance we have found a maths tutor for DS2 -at his request - to help solidify his learning at school, and because maths is his hobby so he enjoys it, and the tutor mentioned a "step" program.
So today I asked the head of maths this same question I have just asked here, and about step and she said I could find some info if I googled it but they wouldn't be able to do anything "extra" with him. Not that I was asking.
So I would just like to ask, what steps should we be taking now if we're thinking of him applying after the summer?
By the way, we have seen there's a maths open day at Cambridge on the 25th April so will go to that.

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Januarydontbecool Thu 30-Jan-20 20:20:15

Other MNetters will know more about applying to Cambridge for Maths than I do, but until they can reply here’s some information about STEP.

titchy Thu 30-Jan-20 20:27:46

STEP. And more STEP. Has he done/can he do Olympiads? Do NOT stick to A level/FM syllabuses. Broaden, hence Olympiad. Coding comps also. I think GCHQ might run something.

Januarydontbecool Thu 30-Jan-20 20:27:52

Just checking as you know about the Open Day that you have read this page and this one .

AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 20:45:47

Thanks for your help and replies. He has done the Olympiad in the past, and has qualified for the further parts of it.
This year, the Olympiad test was after school, and he has a part time job on the evening it was held so could only go for the first 15 minutes as he had to catch the bus to go to his job. He still got the highest score in the school.

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AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 20:46:22

Thank you especially for the info about STEP - makes sense now!

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FabTab Thu 30-Jan-20 20:54:38

Whereabouts in the country are you? Lots of the Cambridge colleges have particular geographic areas they focus on. If you could find the right college(s) for your area you might be able to get some support.


AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 20:56:41

Hi, we're in Gloucestershire

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Headstand Thu 30-Jan-20 20:58:41

DH and many of his friends were Oxbridge "Mathmos". STEP practice papers are essential, he should enjoy them and the challenge. If he doesn't, he might well not enjoy the course. Cambridge Maths is incredibly hard and many reach a "ceiling" and if he's always found maths comes naturally to him, reaching and working through this can be a real struggle, my DH reached his just as he went into his (optional) 4th year, some of his friends reached it in 2nd or 3rd year.

I don't say this to put him off though, my DH adored his course overall and never even considered going anywhere else and luckily got in, but STEP papers are a good way to get a feel for if he would enjoy the harder aspects of the course and cope with answers not being able to always just instinctively "see" the answer.

Some of the lecturers like Imre Leader have lectures up on YouTube, watch some of those...

Ensure he has more to talk about in his interview than just maths. There will be a technical interview which for my DH involved talking and walking through some example questions explaining his reasoning and asking for help.

It's a hugely rewarding course but certainly hard. Good luck!

FabTab Thu 30-Jan-20 21:04:04

Gloucestershire is Robinson. That’s a nice friendly college. I would give them a call and ask to speak to the school liaison officer.

AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 21:04:39

@headstand yes you've hit the nail on the head with regards to coming across stuff he doesn't just "know". The further maths course frightened the life out of him the first few weeks because for the first time he came across things he didn't just instinctively know. He had to learn how to learn maths for the first time. But now he has settled into it he finds it hugely enjoyable!
Thanks for the encouragement. Above all I want him to be happy with whatever he decides but I want to be able to make decisions based on a wider knowledge that I have!

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donquixotedelamancha Thu 30-Jan-20 21:05:40

Please talk to me as though I'm 2

I think you are a little young to go to Cambridge. Well done on your spelling. Is your mummy around?

AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 21:06:47

@fabtab is Robinson a college in Gloucestershire? (Told you, it's Amateur night with me smile) I will google it now.

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FabTab Thu 30-Jan-20 21:14:54

No it’s a Cambridge College. If I knew how to post links I would but you’ll find it if you google Robinson College, Cambridge.

Headstand Thu 30-Jan-20 21:17:51

Yes @AFingerofFudge the "learning how to learn" can be a surprise.

Just asked my DH for advice, he says "explore different areas of maths like analysis, applied etc and remember it's okay to not like it all. It'll be really hard but you'll really enjoy it. Get a tutor who can prep for STEP papers and if it's double maths you need STEP 2 and 3. You need someone who can give you a paper under test conditions and then mark and go through your answers with you. You need to apply yourself early, you need to work at the stuff you don't like as well as what you do as it gets hard and then you need to learn how to learn fast. It's hard, it's fun, I'd recommend it. Have something outside of maths you enjoy as well. If you get into Cambridge, your college will have a therapist, use them and ask for help". He graduated 10 years ago.

Also quite a few Cambridge students will tutor over Skype of you want to hear more about life at Cambridge and to help with interview prep.

AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 21:23:24

@headstand that's brilliant thank you - I will tell him all this when he gets in.
Yes he has other interests. After Maths, the great loves of his life are music, football and French. He would want to be involved in all of these in some way or other.

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RedKites Thu 30-Jan-20 21:23:37

If his school do not send many to Oxbridge, it might be worth applying for a Sutton trust summer school .

AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 21:24:20

@fabtab lol I googled before you wrote that and realised it wasn't in Gloucestershire blush- I thought I hadn't heard of it!

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FreiasBathtub Thu 30-Jan-20 21:28:59

Definitely do as FabTab suggests and get in touch with Robinson. Forgive me if you know this already, but with Oxford and Cambridge you don't apply to the university directly, you apply to one of the colleges and they handle all of the admissions interviews etc.

As part of all this admissions stuff, the colleges have kind of divvied up the country so that they can get to know one particular area, know the schools, and really make sure that everyone who could benefit from a Cambridge education knows that it's an option for them. Eventually your DS will need to choose which college to apply to, it doesn't need to be Robinson at all, but they are going to be the college that is doing most in your area in terms of going out to schools, marketing the university etc. Now I write it down it all sounds a bit with so many aspects of a Cambridge education...

He might also want to think about applying for a Sutton Trust summer school - they are free and students are selected based on a number of criteria. Applications are open now for this summer, it's a great chance to get a taste of life as a Cambridge student.

AFingerofFudge Thu 30-Jan-20 21:47:20

This is all really helpful- thanks

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Januarydontbecool Thu 30-Jan-20 21:54:23

Robinson College. Scroll down for the email address of the Schools Liaison Officer.

They had a Step Prep Day in 2019 so you could ask if they will be having another this year.

AChickenCalledDaal Thu 30-Jan-20 21:58:46

DD has just received an offer to study maths at Cambridge.

Definitely get to the Maths dept open day. And go with him - there are parent talks which gave us lots of useful insights into the course and whether she had a chance at an offer.

And encourage him to start the STEP support course now. Someone else has linked you to it. I agree that if he enjoys it, that's a good sign that he's got a realistic chance.

Hoghgyni Thu 30-Jan-20 22:11:17

Investigate maths master classes at Cambridge, if you could manage the logistics. Find out if Cambridge run a HE+ Scheme in your area and see if your DS can get a place, if not, encourage him to work through recommended activities on the HE+ website. I was going to suggest UNIQ at Oxford as well, but applications closed earlier this week.

AChickenCalledDaal Thu 30-Jan-20 22:15:57

Also, don't be put off by his school's lack of experience. Cambridge is for anyone that is capable of rising to, and relishing, the academic challenge and your evident support and encouragement will go a long way.

AndThenThereWereSeven Thu 30-Jan-20 22:20:32

Other universities do maths courses that help prepare - Bristol university did one that was a few Saturdays.

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