At the end of the spring term, a total of 33 teams packed into the hall at Durham Johnston School. To paraphrase JFK: “there hasn't been this much intellect assembled in a single room since Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” This was the regional final of the Mathematics Team Challenge.

Our team of Cameron B, Saiem H, George H and Tazwar R entered the competition made up of four rounds; the group questions, the cross number, the shuttle and the relay. They started out strongly with the group questions, scoring 42 out of 60 in a series of 10 mathematical puzzles to be completed in 45 minutes. Sounds easy, but to give you an insight into the sort of question that needs to be answered in such a short time, here is an example of one of last year’s questions: “All of the odd integers from 1 to 999 inclusive are added up. What is the total?”

Next up was the cross number round, like a crossword but with numbers. To make it harder, two of the team only get to see the across clues and the other two only get to see the down clues. With the clues interconnected, it makes for an interesting puzzle to solve. The team did well, scoring an impressive 48 out of 60.

A well-earned lunch break followed, with the team finding some confidence in their mathematical ability. As the competition resumed after lunch, the notably difficult shuttle round followed. The team were split into two pairs. The pairs take it in turns to answer a series of questions. The challenge is that each question requires you to do something to the previous answer. You pay heavily for an early error, since all subsequent answers in the series will also be wrong. Our boys' scores took a bit of a dip, scoring 27 out of 60.

The final round is the relay round.  Imagine 132 children sprinting from one side of a crowded room to another, collecting questions and delivering answers. It was brilliant to see the enthusiasm of the team as they strived to get the correct answer and run eagerly to deliver it. Then we sit and wait for the results. The invigilator announces Newcastle School for Boys in second place and our team take to the stage to be presented their prize.

An outstanding result.  Well done George, Cameron, Saiem and Tazwar! They now wait to see if their score is good enough to be invited to the national finals in London later this year.   

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