Forty Year 10 students from disadvantaged areas of London have arrived in Cambridge for the third and final residential study school in the 2010/11 Fast Forward programme, run by our NRICH project team in collaboration with the Cambridge Admissions Office.

The Fast Forward student mathematics programme involves 40 Year 10 (age 14-15) students each year, selected through a highly competitive application process. Each student cohort experiences three intensive residential mathematical study schools in Cambridge over the space of one academic year, followed by a further academic year of e-mentoring and online mathematics support and exploration. The programme is generously funded by the Goldman Sachs Foundation, who provided support for three years. The Fast Forward programme began in 2008/9 and this week sees the last study school for the third and final cohort of students, running 25th - 29th July.

"I love the experience because I’ve learnt a lot. I used to think that maths is all about numbers. But actually, it’s not. You have to think. You have to be independent. It’s more like using your imagination than anything else."

(Fast Forward student comment)

For each cohort, the residential workshops take place in August, December and July, and focus on intensive mathematical activity focused on developing problem-solving and strategic- reasoning skills. The aim is to build students’ mathematical confidence and ability to apply their mathematical knowledge; students learn to take a more systematic approach to a variety of challenging mathematical tasks, encouraging them to engage with the subject at a higher level and empowering them to apply their knowledge to new mathematical situations encountered in the future, whether in a classroom or real-world context. The residential programme also includes pastoral and personal development elements focusing on raising awareness of career and further study opportunities and on raising educational and personal aspirations.

"Now, I’m a lot more confident than I was. Confident with maths; confident socially; confident with everything."

(Fast Forward student comment)

The aims of the Fast Forward programme are to:

  • provide additional, engaging, innovative and challenging maths for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enrich students’ learning;
  • develop pupils’ mathematical and general problem solving and reasoning skills;
  • support students’ classroom mathematics;
  • increase students’ academic achievement;
  • raise students’ aspirations and encourage and enable students to continue into further/ higher education.

Priority is given to students who:

  • Will be the first generation in their family to attend university
  • Have parents in non-professional occupations
  • Are from minority ethnic backgrounds currently under-represented in HE
  • Attend a school/college with a low overall GCSE A*-C average and/or with a low overall A- level point score
  • Attend a school/college with a high proportion of free school meals
  • Attend a school/college with a low proportion of students going on to higher education

"I really enjoy it. It’s really going to benefit me in the future: not just in maths, but in life in general — like I’ll be able to ask questions about all kinds of things. It gives me confidence. I think it’s going to be a step up for me: I’m attending this course and I’m learning a lot from it."

(Fast Forward student comment)

The programme is being evaluated by Dr Wai Yi Feng, Royal Society Ogden Education Research Fellow at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Interim evaluation of the Fast Forward student programme indicates that the programme is having a positive impact on the students involved, improving their confidence, raising their educational aspirations and improving their appreciations of quantitative disciplines. A full evaluation will be available in 2012.

Read more on the University of Cambridge website.