Bronze medal for maths’ student Melissa - discover how good your problem solving skills are by having a go at one of the questions

Melissa Quail and Kate Bell

Melissa Quail and Kate Bell - Credit: Archant

A student from Longsands Academy, in St Neots, has won a bronze medal in an international mathematics competition.

Melissa Quail, aged 18, took part in the European Girls Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO), held in Florence, Italy, from April 9-15.

The UK team, made up of Melissa, Emily Beatty, Alevtina Studenikina and Naomi Wei, finished in third place overall, the UK’s best ranking to date, after competing against 51 countries.

Emily, from Sheffield, picked up an individual gold medal after securing a joint-first position; Alevtina and Naomi picked up silver and Melissa was awarded bronze.

Contestants sat two exams, which lasted for four-and-a-half hours each. The competition is open to girls under the age of 20.

The first EGMO took place in the UK in 2012 and saw 19 countries compete, with 70 contestants, and the competition has grown steadily every year since. The aim is to encourage passion for mathematics and problem solving, as well as a commitment to narrow the gap in female participation and results at international maths competitions, in which girls are under represented.

Melissa has always enjoyed maths, apart from a short spell in junior school when she lost interest for a while, and she is about to embark on her A-Levels after being offered a conditional place at Cambridge University.

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She says she enjoys solving maths problems and finds the process allows her to think creatively.

She said: “I actually find problem solving really satisfying, I enjoy looking for patterns and trying to understand and work my way through problems. For me, it is a very creative process - to start with something on paper, spend time thinking it through and then that feeling of finally being able to work it out.”

Melissa remembers being encouraged in maths from an early age and has always enjoyed the subject.

She is also studying A-Levels in physics, chemistry, computer science and additional further maths. She took A-Levels in maths and further maths early and achieved an A* in each.

Maths teacher Kate Bell describes Melissa as a “once in a career pupil” and says her task now is to mentor and encourage rather than teach as Melissa is so far ahead.

Melissa is currently revising for her A-Levels and is studying for A-Levels in physics, chemistry, computer science and additional further maths. She took A-Levels in maths and further maths early and achieved an A* in each subject.

Melissa also mentors other pupils at school.

Here is a question from round one of the last British Mathmathics Olympiad.

Naomi and Tom play a game, with Naomi going ?rst. They take it in turns to pick an integer from 1 to 100, each time selecting an integer which no-one has chosen before. A player loses the game if, after their turn, the sum of all the integers chosen since the start of the game (by both of them) cannot be written as the di?erence of two square numbers. Determine if one of the players has a winning strategy, and if so, which?