Whether you’re just starting your maths personal statement or you’re applying the finishing touches, it’s important to read other attempts at this challenging task. Doing so allows you to check that you’re using the right tone and format, and you can gain some inspiration for wider reading. With that in mind, we’ve written our very own maths personal statement to help you impress the Oxbridge admissions tutors.
It’s important to give concrete examples of your passion for maths, whether this be through competitions you’ve entered, extra problems you’ve solved, books you’ve read, or lectures you’ve attended. Just show that you’re passionate!
Example Personal Statement
A problem without a solution is a lock without a key.
Even as a young child, the thrill of overcoming a problem was one I relished, no matter how long it took. Mathematics, as alluring and flawless as it may seem, is full of problems, hence I was swiftly drawn into the subject. Towards the end of my final year in junior school, I realised the challenges set in school alone were not enough to quench my thirst, and began seeking logic puzzles elsewhere.
First, I turned to the UK Mathematics Trust, taking on their National Maths Challenge each year, even at a tier above my own age group in 2013 and 2014. [Top tip: Here is a good concrete example of something actually done to enhance mathematical understanding, going above and beyond the maths offered at school.] I always achieved a high score, including two exceptional years in which I was proud to be entered into the Olympiad Hamilton and Kangaroo papers respectively. Last year, I also participated in the UKMT team senior maths challenge, contributing to my college’s fourth-place finish in the West Midlands area, the best result of all non-selective schools attending the event. What I enjoyed most about these challenges was not only their increased difficulty, but their breadth of topics and requirement for logical thinking to answer questions far above A-level material. Whilst my ability to tackle problems when working with others is high, I am more than capable of working through tough challenges on my own. The UK Young Scientists and Engineers fair was hosted in Birmingham in 2014, and my attendance resulted in winning a Cambridge Sciences tablet, after solving a foam cube puzzle in a record-breaking time.
In sixth form, I have had the most thought-provoking lessons in Further Mathematics, where I found the Mechanics and Further Pure modules especially fascinating. The idea that complicated concepts such as matrices had applications in computing, or projectile motion calculations in sport, tied mathematics to real-life situations, which only increased my curiosity about the subject. [Top tip: Here, you could provide a link to something done on top of the study of these subjects in school, to show engagement and evidence of self-study.] In Physics, the mechanics modules overlapped and reinforced my knowledge.
This summer, I began writing an Extended Project Qualification that aims to answer the question ‘Was mathematics discovered or invented?’ through an investigation into the origin of mathematics and its progression to the modern day. While researching for the project, I enjoyed reading a number of books, the first suggested to me by one of my teachers: Timothy Gowers’ Mathematics; A Very Short Introduction. I found it particularly gave insight into the theory of infinity and what can be considered a true ‘proof’, two areas I find most impressive due to their depth and the controversy that arises when questioning the laws of mathematics itself. [Margin quote: Good to show actual understanding of books you speak about, and particularly picking up on certain parts in more detail.] Ultimately, the findings of my project are that the question could be answered in different ways with different arguments, all of which are valid, but that the general consensus is that mathematics is a human construct.
I am currently completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, part of which involves volunteering as a teaching assistant in secondary school-level maths lessons. This demonstrates my eagerness to help others and improves my ability to explain topics many people find challenging, in turn consolidating my own knowledge of the subject. I also attend a debating society at my college each week, discussing national and global issues, which has improved my communication skills. Through this society I participated in a Model United Nations conference, which was an excellent experience that improved my confidence when meeting new people. I was also entered as part of a team into the national Debating Matters competition, for which I researched the planned construction of the HS2 rail line in the coming years.
Mathematics has been extremely influential in my life so far, and by studying a degree in the subject I hope to continue this trend over years to come. [Top tip: Linking back to the subject at the end of your personal statement is a good idea, as your application should be entirely subject-orientated.]
We hope this has given you some insight into what you need to write for an Oxbridge maths personal statement. This is a difficult part of the admissions process, so make sure to let your teachers and parents read any drafts you’ve made – another pair of eyes always helps. Good luck from STEPMaths!