As I stepped into Appleton Tower to participate in ‘Team Puzzle Challenge’ a flicker of trepidation washed over me. The thought of attempting maths is one of those things in life that induces a great sense of uneasiness in a vast swathe of the population; so the thought of spending two hours attempting to tackle an event run by a university maths department, and led by PhD students, was a little intimidating – was my GCSE going to cut it?
Well, I’m not going to pretend I understood the more complicated algebraic, limit finding equations, but I wasn’t completely useless and, actually, I really enjoyed myself. One lesson I have learned in Innovative Learning Week is that attending events outside of your own faculty can be incredibly interesting and satisfying. Going from History to Maths, I found the certainty of the answers a beautiful thing – the answer is 0 and no one was going to attempt to argue otherwise.
It was clear a lot of thought had been put into this event, which paid off as the two hours passed in a very smooth, highly organized fashion. The structure of dividing the two hour block into three bite-sized rounds of five questions worked well, and by making each round progressively harder they were able to cater to, and challenge, a range of abilities (though, bizarrely, my group seemed to experience a vast improvement as the rounds ticked on!). Meanwhile, the little breaks between each segment allowed you to chat with, and get to know, your team members and the longer break, in which everyone had to join hands in a giant knot and then work to untangle it, ensured everyone got involved – important, as there were some notably shyer individuals in the crowd.
Overall, it provided just enough of a challenge and academic focus to allow you to walk away feeling you had really achieved something, whilst keeping it light-hearted enough so that it didn’t feel like a dreaded maths test – just a bit of fun that happened to be a little more academic.