Curriculum X

Curriculum X is an eXciting eXtra course for students in their second year at EMS, it forms a core part of our eXtended curriculum, preparing students for studying at university and beyond.  We are able to offer this thanks to the generous sponsorship of XTX Markets – you may be beginning to see where we got the name from!

Curriculum X is formed from multiple modular courses which together aim to:

  • be both challenging and engaging 
  • provide you with a way to develop your knowledge, skills and under­standing of the mathematical sciences that goes beyond the confines of A-Level syllabuses 
  • help prepare you for undergraduate study in the mathematical sci­ences. 
  • enable you to explore interesting topics beyond the normal A-level curriculum, feeding your curiosity and expanding your horizons

” Curriculum X definitely expands learning at EMS to cover so much that otherwise you wouldn’t get to experience. It also makes your lessons in Y13 much more flexible. You get to choose from lots of different subjects that wouldn’t normally be covered in the curriculum, and at the same time learn like you would at university.”

[Harriet, year 13]

Course Overview

There are courses in mathematics, physics and computer science, many of which have cross-curricular links.  

Many courses in mathematics are chosen to help you develop an understanding of how mathematics develops at undergraduate level and beyond but will cover little of the material typically taught in undergraduate courses. The idea is more to expose you to the style of thinking that mathematics employs beyond A Level.   

Other courses focus on mathematics which is useful or delights uswe want to share our enthusiasm with you.  Some of these courses have an emphasis on the best material from the Further Maths modules we are not teaching, whilst others link to other subjects or are studying other topics not met at A-level. 

The same mode of thought has been applied in physics and computer science 

Each course is taught by either an EMS teacher or a University of Exeter academic. The style of teaching will vary, but in general will include more university­ styled teaching, so for example courses may be broken up into lectures and problem classes.  Typically, you will have a 45 minute lecture and a 90 minute problems class each week.  In addition you will have problem sheets to complete so should typically allow an additional 2 hours of independent study time.

 

The 2020/21 Curriculum

Some of the courses will vary each year, whilst other remain core modules.  The information below gives you a taste of the type of options on offer for each subject area.  Students can elect to study up to eight modules (two per half term in the Autumn and Spring terms), selecting from the following.

Aims

The Information Revolution has resulted in innovative digital products which have changed and continue to change human life and culture: fake news are spreading with the aid of bots, job applicants are assessed by AI systems which have been proven to be biased in their judgement and contact tracing apps harvest our most private data. The aim of this course is to explore these issues through reading, building small computational systems, essay writing and debate. 

Content

Each week will provide a 45min lecture on one ethical issue, such as bias in machine learning systems. The 1.5h workshop session will be used to explore how the ethical issue can be addressed in the building of systems. One example will be the design of a chatbot which won’t develop sexist language. In addition you will be set a weekly task which will either require you to write an essay or to develop the coding project started in the workshop.

Who’s it for?

We will be coding small artefacts, such as chat- and twitter-bots to help us investigate what an ethical code of conduct for the production of digital products may need to include. These coding challenges will be accessible to non-computer scientists, yet scalable and open ended to ensure that more experienced programmers are equally stretched. There is a high expectation to work effectively in small mixed ability teams, where respect for each other’s skill set is paramount.

What our students say
Iris

Such a fantastic course!  As a specialist school, lessons follow a particular style, and content specification.  This has allowed seminar-like discussions, detailed writing and deep, considered thought that, although I hadn’t realised, I’d really missed!  AMAZING COURSE!

Ryan

Over such a short period, I’ve definitely improved my ability to see where other people are coming from. Unlike at debate club, none of us aim to win or persuade anyone that we are right but simply understand where the others are coming from. I have begun grasping the history to explain clearly why certain actions can be justified from different viewpoints such as the ancient Greeks or modern utilitarianism. This course will prepare me for wider life after EMS when I need to justify my decisions to someone with a different value system which is quite a common occurrence.

Molly

I now know the wall does not exist…but it does (and doesn’t).

Aims

The programming language C++ is an incredibly popular language and despite being much older than Python, Java or JavaScript. The aim of the course is to offer all students at EMS an introduction to the powerful features of C++, to gain an insight into how to write fast and scalable code bases. The course will challenge you to write built-in features of Python yourself and gain the full understanding of object-orientation preparing you for any coding module offered by a degree within STEM. 

Content

Each week will provide a 45min lecture on a concept, such as input and output stream in C++. The 1.5h workshop session will be used to practice the skill in implementing the concept. You will also be set a task which requires you to apply the learnt concept independently.

Who’s it for?

Non computer scientists will benefit from learning general coding techniques, such as object orientation, which will help prepare for any STEM degree where coding is taught a supplementary skill. Computer Scientists will benefit from getting practical experience in coding with pointers and references. This will not only benefit all those considering a degree in Computer Science, but also widen their career prospects.

Aims

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the rigour and precise nature of pure mathematics. It is a stepping stone between A level mathematics and university mathematics and is designed to make the first lectures in a mathematical university course feel a little less strange and daunting.  

Content

We will look at what it means to make a formal definition in mathematics and how we use it to prove general statements. We start the course by looking at various methods of proof which you have already come across, such as proof by contradiction and proof by induction. For the majority of the course we focus on sequences of real numbers and the notion of convergence, including the formal definition.

Each week there will be a 45 minute lecture where you will be expected to take your own notes. There will also be a 90 minute examples class where you can work through exercises and try to understand and apply the ideas from the lecture. 

Who’s it for?

This course is for anyone who would like to learn what “real” pure mathematics is about at university level. It will teach you how to make precise statements and how to write down formal proofs. It is an introduction to the ‘analysis’ courses which are commonly the first rigorous parts of any mathematics degree. It is particularly useful for students who are thinking of studying mathematics at university or any related university course that has mathematical analysis as part of the degree. 

We strongly recommend that you complete this module if you are interested in exploring continued fractions or sums and integrals.

What our students say
Chloe

The Limits sessions were great, having a taste of what university is like is what the courses are about, and I feel I know more of what to expect now in university. The topics had different complexity which made some weeks easier then others, but this it was made the course interesting and engaging.

Tom

This course gave me a good indication of the university learning style. I also enjoyed the more in-depth look at proof.

Fraser

The extension material was challenging and really interesting. The problem solving classes allowed me to start to explore these problems and then I would complete them at home.

Aims

This course is excellent preparation for mathematical programming at university which is very likely to be needed in any mathematics degree and is often an area students are under-confident with. Some of the projects are based on genuine undergraduate programming projects. In doing the course we will also develop a number of new mathematical ideas which will be important in undergraduate study.  

Content

The course will consist of a 45 minute lesson on the mathematical and programming theory required for each project, followed by a 90 minute supported session working on the project. The projects come with a “hints” sheet.  Some content would have been taught in the ‘further pure with technology’ course. 

Who’s it for?

This course is primarily aimed at students who wish to study a mathematics degree and want to prepare for programming content. However, it is open to anyone who wants to improve their programming whilst looking at some new areas of mathematics. 

What our students say
Fraser

The problems were interesting and having a new topic each week made the course fast moving and different each time. This worked really well especially as it meant that if in one topic I did well and found another harder, both only lasted for one week. The ability to progress through different challenges made the difficulty level work no matter the topic.

Aims

To gain an insight into the topic of topology (the study of properties of geometric objects preserved under continuous stretching). This will give you a taste of how Mathematics at a higher level can use techniques from familiar topics to study new areas.  

Content

After a general introduction you will be introduced to knot polynomials and other invariant properties. Knots are twisted loops in 3 dimensional space. We will not be tying knots that you may have met in scouts! 

I have taken some content from a 30 hour third-year undergraduate course in knot theory, to produce a short course accessible to A-level students.  Some of the knot invariants will require substantial use of polynomials and matrices. Some spatial awareness is useful but not essential. 

Who’s it for?

I hope it is accessible to anyone, all are welcome at the very least. Ideal for anybody who is applying for a Mathematics degree to gain an insight into an area of topology. 

Aims

Any degree in a STEM subject is likely to involve at least one module applying a programming language to explore data – this course will give you a taste of what to expectintroducing some of the tools and techniques used to analyse the enormous data sets which now exist, and will give you an insight into the fun that can be had exploring data with R. 

It will also give you a flavour of how statistics can be used in the real world and help you to decide whether you would like to move towards a career in this direction.

Content

The discipline of Data Science is younger than you are and is still evolving. It is all about using data to solve problems. The core job of a data scientist is to understand the data, extract useful information out of it and apply this in solving the problems. These are highly valued skills in the employment market.  We will extend and add to some of the theory already encountered in Statistics, but with a focus on using R to explore and visualise data using real datasets. 

 Cleaning data  

Data analysis using R  

Data presentation and visualisation  

The central limit theorem and confidence intervals  

Statistical Modelling and simulations  

Bootstrapping techniques 

Who’s it for?

Anyone interested in taking a STEM degree at university or wishing to develop employability skills with data science.  If you are interested in what a career in Data Science may involve, this will be a good course for you. 

Aims

This course complements Limits by developing theorem-proving skills in the setting of the Interactive Theorem Prover Lean. Having taken the Limits course would be helpful, but it is not a prerequisite. 

 You will write definitions, theorems, and proofs in the Lean language and investigate properties of the real number system. This will give you a taste of some of the rigour of university-level Mathematics course 

Content

We will use Lean to work with an axiomatic development of the real number system. 

 You will prove results including: (-1) x (-1) = 1, there is a square root of 2, and that limits of sequences behave as expected. 

Who’s it for?

People who are interested in very precise formulations of pure mathematics, particularly those interested in logic and computer science. 

Aims

To prepare you for working in a university-style. 

To develop a greater depth of understanding of calculus. 

To build on the skills learn in limits and apply the ideas in a new context.

Content

How does integration work?  And what is it used for aside from the slightly arbitrary calculation of areas under curves?  This course will show you a bit more of the formal set up behind integration, and will then explore a whole host of contexts with curved surface areas. 

Who’s it for?

Anyone interested in taking a mathematical based degree at university or anyone who is just curious to better understand the techniques which are met at A-level but not fully explored. 

Aims

This course will be delivered as pairs of lectures and problems classes, to give you a taster of university-style learning. There will be an emphasis on rigorous proof in the lectures, where this is possible at a pre-undergraduate level, with a limited number of examples. Time for exploring the concepts will mainly be through the weekly problems sheets. This is also one of my favourite areas of Mathematics so I hope you will enjoy studying this beautiful topic!

Content

Continued fractions are an exceptionally elegant way of representing real numbers. We will look at both finite and infinite continued fractions, their convergents, using these to approximate real numbers and selected applications to solving Diophantine equations. The final lecture will extend methods of solving Diophantine equations to look at infinite descent.  

As part of studying infinite continued fractions means proving that these are well-defined, it is strongly recommended that you have completed the Limits course as a pre-requisite

Who’s it for?

Anyone who enjoys playing with numbers and finds mathematical problem solving satisfying! Especially recommended if you are thinking of a Maths degree (particularly if you already know that you like pure maths or number theory) but also appropriate for anyone who enjoys recreational Maths. 

Aims

Introduce different models of light, including a basic quantum mechanical model for describing photons. This will be solid foundation for university level physics and also a remarkable and interesting topic to explore. 

Content

Optics – traditional models of refraction 

History of light – the important scientific discoveries that have lead to our current understanding of light 

Understanding photons 

Quantum behaviour – photon models for propagation – why does light appear to travel in straight lines? 

 The speed of light – why is it constant and why does it appear to change in different media?

Who’s it for?

Recommended for anyone considering a degree in physics. This course will not be suitable for non-physicists. 

What our students say
Tom

Best course ever – very very interesting.

Harry

This course really helped me to look at light and photos in a new way, and explained to me the nature of light with a deeper understanding.

Jess

It’s a great course to do if you really want to think in depth about what makes up our universe. Light’s a fascinating topic that I’d definitely recommend learning more about! If you’re doing this course, make sure you go into it with an open mind.

Aims

One of the most shocking, revealing, confusing and infuriating concepts in modern physics is relativity. This course will provide you with experience of a topic not usually met until degree level physics. It is hoped that this will not only challenge and confuse but help prepare you for undergraduate study in the mathematical sciences and feed your curiosity too! 

Content

Each week will be a lesson and a discussion/problem session 

Introduction and Relativity Pre-Einstein

Einstein’s Principle of Relativity and a new Concept of Spacetime

The Great Kinematic Consequences of Relativity 

Kinematics and “Paradoxes”

Relativistic Momentum and Energy I: Basic

General Relativity: Einstein’s Theory of Gravity

 

Who’s it for?

This is ideal for anyone thinking of heading off to a physics/applied mathematics degree – or if you just want to understand how a GPS works! 

Aims

An interdisciplinary course with the ultimate goal of explaining how information is digitised and sent. The course will provide a good example of the application of mathematics and physics in the context of computer science and also give a broad understanding of modern communication systems. 

Content

Information and signalling – What is information and what forms does it take? How can we get information from one place to another quickly? 

Analogue signalling – looking at ways of sending a continuous signal 

Digitisation –converting analogue signals to digital and the reasons for doing so 

0’s and 1’s – sending digital signals and the theoretical limits to data transfer speed 

Possible extension 5G – what makes 5G better (and can it give you corona virus)? 

Who’s it for?

Recommended for computer scientists. It will be accessible to non-physicists. Anyone who is interested in how their phone can access the internet, or wants to know why their download speed is slower when they get further from their WiFi router.  

Aims

This course will give you an insight into the physics and maths used to describe Earth. It will help show you how more advanced mathematics can be used to penetrate deep within Earth and help you prepare for university by providing complex lectures followed up by a tutorial style problems session linking physics of Earth with higher level maths. 

Content

Geometry of plate tectonics 

Using earthquakes to view inside Earth 

Earth’s gravity 

Heat transfer through Earth 

The deep interior 

Earth’s magnetic field 

Who’s it for?

This is ideal for anyone thinking of heading off to a geophysics/physics/applied mathematics degree – or if you just want to know more about Earth and the physics and maths that are used to describe it. 

Aims

The aim of this module is to provide students with a strong sense of what their 1st yr university physics or engineering programmes will deliver, both in pace, style and some content.  It will use mathematics already covered at A-level but will also introduce some new mathematical methods, such as complex exponential number notation, which will certainly be used in university modules.

Each week will comprise first a lecture, in which material will be presented, then a problem class, in which questions and ideas from each lecture will be worked through and discussed.

Content

Specifically the lectures will be examining the physics of vibrations and oscillations; SHM, damped SHM and forced SHM. This is the basis for huge swathes of syllabus content across physics and engineering science degrees.

We will show also that the very same mathematical analyses and physical phenomena can be used to describe AC electricity.

Who’s it for?

This course is for anyone who would like to have a taste of what it feels like to be in university 1st year engineering or physics lectures.  It will introduce and teach some new mathematical methods as well as revealing the way in which the majority of engineering and physics systems are analysed.  It will be particularly useful for students who are thinking of studying engineering or physics at university.

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