With education professionals and the media emphasising the growing importance of Maths in the classroom and for future careers, Sydenham High School GDST is finding clever ways to inspire young students who struggle with the subject


There is increasing emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects as the key to future UK economic growth. But while the number of students taking these subjects at A level and beyond appears to be rising, Maths often fails to inspire younger students who can find some core concepts impenetrable and divorced from their everyday experience. 

Sydenham High School GDST is tackling this issue head on with its innovative Magic Maths scheme, developed jointly by the Junior and Senior Maths teams, to improve student’s engagement with and performance in Maths from an early age. 

Magic Maths is based on using very visual, non-traditional demonstrations of the magic behind mathematical concepts – from living Venn diagrams (processing data) to number tricks (algebraic equations, common factors and multiples) plus paper cutting games, such as fitting a whole class through one piece of A4 paper (geometry and spatial maths).


“The idea is to capture students’ curiosity with clever and strongly visual mathematical games,” says Mark Williams, Head of Maths at Sydenham High. “Showing students what a perimeter, a number bond or a set means, right in front of them, is a very powerful way to demystify Maths.”

The approach is proving particularly helpful in smoothing the change in Maths from Junior to Senior School and also in introducing new concepts to girls embarking on the GCSE syllabus. Its popularity has also spawned a Magic Maths club, run by the school’s Sixth Form Maths students.


•Mark Williams shows girls at Sydenham High Junior School some Magic Maths tricks

“Once intrigued students are more able to unpack the underlying concepts, see why they work and understand the logic that underpins them,” explains Mark Williams. They gain huge personal satisfaction and confidence from finding the answers to something that might have seemed impenetrable on paper and they can then take their learning much further more quickly, seamlessly moving onto harder aspects.”

The school is also taking Magic Maths into the local community, thanks to the generous support of HSBC’s Global Education Programme – part of an ongoing collaboration with the Girls’ Day School Trust. A partnership has already been established with St Joseph’s RC Junior School in West Norwood. This was kicked off in December when Sydenham High Maths staff and a team of Sixth Formers delivered a Magic Maths assembly and three different group activities to 120 children in Years 5 and 6 at St Joseph’s. This was followed by an afternoon of curriculum discussions between staff at both schools. A reciprocal visit to Sydenham High by the St Joseph’s team is planned for later in the Spring Term, when future Maths collaboration will be discussed.

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