Martin Hanak-Hammerl

Head of Mathematics, Bedales

Mag Phil in Pure Mathematics and English, University of Graz, Austria
MSc in Applied Mathematics, Imperial College, London

What makes a good teacher at Bedales?

Someone who expects the unexpected.

What are you trying to encourage and instil in your students?

There is so much more to maths than just the basic skills which are examined in public exams. Maths is about playing with ideas and approaching problems from different angles. It’s quite normal to get stuck. Some problems can be solved quickly but some problems may take longer. For example, Fermat’s Last Theorem remained unsolved for more than 350 years until it was proven by Andrew Wiles, who took seven years to do so! To become a successful mathematician, you have to be extremely persistent yet creative and flexible in your approach.

Apart from your teaching role, what else do you get involved with at the school?

I run a codebreaking after school activity. I love the idea of unlocking messages by using a bit of linguistics, statistics, number theory and computing. As Head of Mathematics, I assist with the running of the Senior Maths Society and external competitions, such as the UKMT Maths Challenges and Olympiads.  

In your opinion, what makes Bedales special?

It’s a community that really looks out for each other. I started at Bedales in the middle of the academic year and on my second or third day, one of my sixth formers asked me how I was settling in. Starting in a new school environment can be challenging for pupils and staff alike. I thought it was very considerate that a pupil would put herself in my shoes.

Who or what inspires you?

My children Max and Emily. It’s wonderful to see them grow up and learn something new every day. When they started to walk, they reminded me that in order to master a skill you have to be prepared to fall flat on your face several times. However, the satisfaction of having understood or achieved something is all the worth it.

Tell us something not a lot of people know about you

One of my guilty pleasures is crime drama. I must have seen every episode of CSI, NCIS and Numb3rs at least three times. I also get through a lot of detective novels. My favourite fictional characters are Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chef de police, and Wolf Haas’ Simon Brenner.