Conference inspires teenage girls to study STEM

Christ's Hospital girls at the University of Oxford
Christ's Hospital girls at the University of Oxford

A teenager has written about her determination to study maths after being inspired by a conference at the University of Oxford.

Lottie Field, 15, was one of a group from Christ's Hospital school, who attended the It All Adds Up conference, which was designed to inspire girls to study STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths - at a higher level.

The Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP), a government-funded initiative supported by the Department for Education, published figures which showed the percentage of girls participating in maths and further maths in the UK had grown substantially in recent years, but still fell short of the boys.

Only 39 per cent of A-Level maths students are girls, and only 28 per cent of further maths students.

Describing her day at the university, Lottie wrote: "We travelled to the University of Oxford because it gave us the opportunity not only to experience the atmosphere and environment at one of the top and most renowned universities in the world, but to meet women successfully working with maths and on STEM subjects.

"Throughout the day there were five sessions, the first about prime numbers, their applications and how to find them. This was followed with a discussion on how mathematical models are used to predict the spread of diseases, then a puzzle solving session, then one about modular arithmetic and finally a talk about women in STEM.

"My favourite was the second about predicting the spread of diseases, because I could clearly see its direct application and significance in helping solve some of the worlds’ major problems.

Dr Cotton-Barratt (admissions co-ordinator to maths at Oxford) explained how the reproductive ratio - on average how many people you infect when you have a disease - affects the spread of a disease.

"I also thoroughly enjoyed the modular arithmetic session. It was excellently explained and we started to look into patterns in modular arithmetic multiplication tables which was very interesting, and we continued this investigation back at Christ's Hospital during maths club.

"The day was a wonderful experience and helped me to gain a further understanding of the research work being undertaken.

"Just walking around the building looking at how mathematical patterns had been incorporated into the design and the intriguing displays was fascinating."

Lottie said she hoped her experience would encourage other girls to look at maths and STEM subjects when choosing their sixth-form courses.

She added: "The facilities of the maths department at Oxford and the passion of the speakers have in particular motivated me find out more about the options available at the university.

"I’m even more convinced about continuing with maths post-GCSE.

"When it comes to other STEM related subjects, I definitely know more about them and in particular their relationship to maths.

"I’m so grateful to have been able to take part and, despite the freezing start to the day and the traffic on the journey, every minute was worth it."

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