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Maths Competition for Primary Schools

A competition for teams of four pupils from primary schools across Birmingham. During the Autumn term we run a series of heats for Year 4 primary children, followed by a final. The same format is followed for Year 5's in the Summer term. Questions are designed to encourage collaboration as well as to give pupils the opportunity to answering challenging questions within a fun and enjoyable framework. We have named the competition the Borcherds Shield after Richard Borcherds, a Fields Medal winning mathematician who grew up in Birmingham and attended King Edward's School.


A number of local primary schools were looking for ways to extend their highest-performing pupils. This competition was designed to allow teams of four such children to enjoy some challenging mathematics while working with their peers in a fun and engaging way. The pupils get to see King Edward's School and the environment that it provides for learning as well as interacting with some of the school's capable mathematicians who perform a key role in the organising the event.


Members of the mathematics department at King Edward's School observed that a format used for mathematics competitions for older boys could be successfully adapted for the younger age group. The event was advertised using contacts that had been built up through the already well-established outreach programme run by the school. In the 2013-14 academic year we invited some local primary schools for a trial and, based on that success, launched the competition more widely in 2014-15. In the Autumn Term of 2019, we will see 60 primary schools participating across the term.  


The competition is held on school facilities and is run by one of our Maths teachers, with the support of Outreach to prepare resources. Six KES boys help with each event, including welcoming, signing in and running the competition itself. 


Verbal feedback from primary staff and students on the day is very positive. Qualitative assessment is also invited, leading to comments such as the following from pupils and teachers:

"The maths challenge increased our competitiveness in a sporting way. It challenged us to be better mathematicians. We were proud to represent our school and wanted to do our very best. It was a great experience of an interschool competition even if we hadn't won, but we did! Our friends back at school were very jealous that we had seen Kjartan Poskitt. Sometimes maths is seen as boring and muddling, but the author made it cool and fun for us."

An excellent opporunity for children to experience mathematical competition against a wide range of other schools they wouldn't normally get to work alongside. A great mixture of fun and challenge.” 

“The KES maths challenge is a fun filled, exhilarating day which is always very well organised and perfectly targeted to challenge our more able yr 4 mathematicians.” Primary teacher

Primary schools are keen to return, as well as new contacts being established by word of mouth. 

Pupil Involvement

 As the confidence of the King Edward’s School pupils grows they are increasingly taking a leading role on the day, both in the front-of-house explanation and communication with the participants as well as ensuring the competition runs smoothly behind the scenes.


We are currently running heats for Year 4 in the Autumn term and Year 5 in the Summer term. The winners from the heats are invited to a final competition, in which they compete against each other for the Borcherd's Shield. We hold a competition alongside this for Independent school pupils of the same age, coming together for a presentation from an external maths presenter.