“I had just started my first teaching job in 2003 when I was asked to act as an in-school mentor for one of our Year 9 students, who had been invited to join the UKMT Mentoring Scheme. Having participated in maths competitions when I was in school in Serbia, I was more than happy to take on this challenge. One of the perks was being invited to the UKMT mentoring conference in Cambridge. There I met Richard Atkins, who was at that time leading BMO1 marking. When he heard about my olympiad experience he invited me to join the BMO1 marking in December.
Although I really enjoyed maths olympiads at school, I didn’t know anyone in the UK olympiad programme, so I didn’t get involved with it when I came here as an undergraduate. So it was really exciting to get back to doing some olympiad maths and to meet like-minded people who were passionate about providing challenging maths opportunities for a wide group of children.
After a while I was also asked to join the BMO Subtrust (now the BMO Executive Committee), then chaired by Geoff Smith. At that time, BMO-related activities included BMO1 and BMO2 competitions, further training and selection of teams for international competitions, but also the mentoring schemes and summer schools.
I attended the summer school, then in Birmingham, several times. There I met many of the dedicated UKMT volunteers, including MT Fyfe, Robin Bhattacharyya, James Gazet and the late Vicky Neale. Particularly inspiring, however, was meeting the students, for many of whom this was the first time being surrounded by other young people who enjoy mathematics. Watching them relish this experience of being surrounded by like-minded people reminded me of my own time at school, and definitely convinced me that I wanted to continue my involvement with UKMT.
In 2007 I was selected to be the Deputy Leader of the Balkan Olympiad team, taking a group of six students to Rhodes in Greece; I went to the Balkan Olympiad two more times, in 2008 and 2018, both times in my home country of Serbia. I was also the Deputy Leader of the IMO team, travelling to Spain and Germany in 2008 and 2009. As well as looking after the team and marking their work at the competition itself, this involved coordinating teaching at training camps in Cambridge, Oundle and Portugal.
The competition itself is an absolutely amazing experience, and I particularly enjoyed meeting colleagues from all over the world and learning how they go about finding and inspiring young talented mathematicians. More recently I have attended the IMO (International Maths Olympiad) and EGMO (European Girls’ Maths Olympiad) as a coordinator (marker).
One of the most rewarding activities as a UKMT volunteer has been my involvement with the Maths Olympiad for Girls, which continues to this day. MOG, in its current form, started in 2013, after the UK hosted the first EGMO in Cambridge in 2012. The aim of MOG is to give female students a first taste of olympiad mathematics and enable them to engage in challenging problem solving even if they have not been trained in the common olympiad topics. This new venture has been a great success, growing from 1200 to over 3000 entries per year, to date. It has also helped in growing the UKMT pool of markers, as we tried to involve more teachers.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the UKMT volunteers who have been involved with MOG over the years. I am especially grateful for the support in the early years from the late Peter Neumann, Andrew Jobbings and Vicky Neale.
During a period of home working and online marking during the pandemic I took the opportunity to contribute to the marking of the Intermediate and Junior Olympiads, which previously would have been too many weekend commitments. Taking part in a wider range of UKMT activities encouraged me to think about the aims and the direction of UKMT as a whole, and last December I stood for and was elected to the Board of Trustees. This has been a steep learning curve but an absolutely fascinating experience.
Volunteering for UKMT, I have learned so much about teaching maths and setting interesting problems. I have also met many amazing colleagues, some of whom have become close friends. I can definitely recommend volunteering with UKMT to anyone who is passionate about improving mathematical experiences of young people.”