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Archive for December, 2009

What does a Middle Sets textbook look like?

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment
We’ve had lots of feedback that teachers are concerned about keeping their ‘middle’ sets motivated through the GCSE course:
  • Much of the Foundation content is too easy and can bore them
  • Parts of the Higher content are too challenging and can put them off.

So Longman have made a middle path, shown here on the ‘quick contents list’ of our AQA GCSE Maths Middle Sets student book.

AQA GCSE Longman Middle Sets

Middle book contents

The grade spread of this book is E to B. Grade B content is highlighted – you only need these whole chapters if you’re taking the Higher unit exam.

Flexible or what?!

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Problem solving at the Winter Olympics

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Forecasters are predicting snow in the next few days, so in anticipation of that, here’s an activity taken from our Level Up Maths series,  for  exploring coordinates and graphs of simple functions based on Winter Olympic events.

Core skills include accurate drawing, problem solving and identifying patterns and relationships. Don’t worry if it’s not of immediate use, we’ll keep it on here well into the New Year.

The activity is here in Word format, and the accompanying worksheet is here.

Practice coordinates and graphs of simple functions

Thoughts on grading low-demand questions

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

We’re fans here of providing maths questions that are graded – “this is the kind of question a B-grade student could do correctly”, so that students can evaluate their own status and progress. If you check out the samples, you’ll see the forthcoming Longman AQA GCSE course has graded questions all the way through.

Question is, does the theory hold at the G-F end of the scale? We’re producing a support book to help G-F students gain a pass in GCSE Maths, but does the grade labeling help in this situation? Will students find it motivating/helpful?

Below are two sample spreads from the G-F Support Book: one graded spread, the other ungraded. Click on each for bigger JPG versions. We’d be interested to hear your preference.

Double page from the G-F Support Book, showing grades in the margins

Double page from the G to F Support Book, without showing grades

Advice wanted on Schemes of Work

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

We want to hear your views.  Let us know what you want from a Scheme of Work.

If our questions don’t capture all your thoughts, then please post a comment…

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME!  Remember: if there’s anything else you think we should know, please post a comment.

GUEST BLOG: Examiner tells us how teachers are reacting to the new Functional Maths spec

December 9, 2009 1 comment

We invited Will Rigby, an AQA Functional Maths examiner, to tell us how teachers are responding to Functional.  What they like and what they dislike.  Will’s been helping to host the recent AQA Launch events, which has given him direct access to teachers’ views.  Will also shared a few views of his own:

We have had lots of very positive Heads of Dept (mostly) at the launches who see the value both educationally and morally of what we are trying to achieve… To educate, enthuse, and develop thinking skills for life, rather than teaching solely to a test.

What teachers really fear is that they will be forced to teach to a Functional exam and this will be in their 6 A* to Cs or the school record card.  This, of course is a million miles from teaching Mathematics functionally.  One always has to remember that teachers are subject to the guidance of Heads, Secretaries of State, county advisors, who are themselves under pressure to deliver one thing… results. And grades.  This shifts the emphasis away from preparation for further study, developing logical reasoning, or engaging in mathematical concepts for their own sake. 

We’ve been hearing that this situation is bugging teachers most, because many desperately want to develop their classroom teaching in Functional terms but are constrained by the above.  I meet so many that welcome Functionality.  These are delightful people who teach and care and want the best for their students.

Equally, many staff are temporary or non -specialists and are therefore not confident delivering in a Functional manner.

These then are our stumbling blocks and we need influential people in the public eye supporting teachers in this seed-change and, in particular, getting away from the quick-fix mentality.  If league tables were not the priority that they currently are, we could make Functional a more valuable field of study.  The rich tasks that can be developed from Functional methods of teaching help the young adult to become more engaged in maths, and in the longer term will yield a significantly more numerate work-force.

As a country we have a great opportunity to re-energise education with the 3 Functional skills….we just need politicians to shout it from the roof tops!

…And we also asked teachers, “Why wouldn’t you offer Functional Maths?”

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

In our survey we wanted to tease out any scepticism among teachers about Functional Maths, and any reluctance to engage with it.  So we asked them to rate factors which might stop their centre from offering Functional.

We’re pleased to report, from Functional’s point of view, that teachers rated these negative factors as far less significant than the positive factors mentioned in our earlier post, below.  Here’s a list of the negative factors, and how many teachers rated them important or very important:

26% – “At my Centre we don’t know very much about Functional Maths” 

48% – “Functional Maths is no longer a hurdle to achieving Grade C at GCSE””

36% – “There has been a low pass rate in the Functional Maths Pilot”

13% – “My Centre is not interested in teaching Functional Maths on principle”

22% – “My Centre has not found the Pilot specification and examinations to be a successful way of delivering Functional Maths”

So the stand-out issues are clearly (1) that Functional is no longer a hurdle to Grade C at GCSE (no surprises there…) and (2) the low pass rate in the Pilot exams.   Clearly, QCA and the Exam Boards need to address this latter point before specs and SAMs are finalised next April. 

We also think Publishers (that’s us, amongst others!) need to do a better job of teaching Functional and supporting teachers.  When we look through the books already produced on Functional, we find them very hard to navigate – it’s almost impossible to tell which chapter is teaching which maths topic… 

Watch this space over the coming months for more thoughts on publishing Functional resources!  Meantime if you have any thoughts on Functional, please send a comment.

All in all, it looks to us that the enthusiasm of teachers for Functional far outweighs the doubts or scepticism.   More on this in the next day or two – we’ve invited one of the Functional Pilot examiners, Will Rigby, to write a guest blog.  We hear from him that teachers are committed to Functional, if only they didn’t have to teach to the test………..

We asked teachers “Why offer Functional Maths?”

December 9, 2009 Leave a comment

Last month, we asked 63 schools and FE colleges about their motivation for potentially offering the new Functional Maths qualification. Here’s a snapshot of their responses:

  • 75% of respondents believed that learning Functional Maths is inherently useful for students
  • 55% said that the Functional Maths qualification will be a useful way of delivering the Functional Elements of the GCSE course
  • 29% believe that Functional Maths is likely to be an important part of the School Report Card
  • 56% said Functional Maths is important because it’s a necessary requirement for a full Diploma