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AQA Functional Maths 2010 – so what are Longman doing about it?

Longman AQA Functional Maths Student Book - Healthy homes - perimeter & area

Longman's AQA Functional Maths Student Book - sample spread

2010 is upon us and the Functional Maths qualification, along with its English and ICT cousins, will soon be going live.   We’re picking up a variety of noises from the teachers about this one, some excited, some nervous.  Excited because Functional maths offers a genuine opportunity to engage less mathematically inclined students.  Nervous because the pass rate during the Pilot was lower than expected, and because school timetables are stretched…   

How are we feeling?  Well, we’re always nervous – launching a new series is a nail-biting business.  But this time there’s more to be excited about.  For one thing, Functional Maths could make a real difference to students’ education and life skills – our Series Editor, Will Rigby, wrote passionately about this in a guest blog recently.  We think we can play a valuable role in that process.  But we’re also excited because putting together functional resources is fun, challenging and very, very different. 

What went wrong during the Pilot?  

Our first goal in designing this series was to avoid the pitfalls of the Pilot phase.  Two things stand out about this period: one, not enough students were passing –  secondly, the published books were inadequate.  If you look at all the books from this period, they teach in a disconnected way.  They don’t make clear what basic maths a student might need to study or revise before tackling the functional questions.  In fact, the books have almost no mathematical architecture at all.  The chapter titles are all about golfing, or IT, or travel plans, or financial budgeting – all very suitable real-life topics, but no clue is given as to how the maths is being developped.   So not only are students confused as to what maths skills they might need in any given chapter, teachers are confused as to how to integrate the book with their normal GCSE maths teaching.  

So how are we going to get things right this time? (Hopefully…)  

So the first thing we’ve done is to make sure the maths structure behind our student book is very, very clear.  Yes, all our chapters present up-to-date, relevant contexts – so we have chapters on choosing a mobile phone package, understanding credit card interest,  as well as later chapters on deforestation (volume and area)  and global warming (equations).  But for us, the equally important point is that each chapter is sub-titled with the maths it covers.  Have a look at the sample above: Area & perimeter.  And the maths is covered in a similar order to our main GCSE books, which – it goes without saying – is a sensible order for any teacher’s course.  So you find basic number skills at the start, measures & probability a bit later on, with geometery towards the end.   Each chapter builds on the next.  Teachers can see at a glance how to integrate our Functional Student Book with their GCSE course.  Because one of our survey findings is that 60% of teachers plan to teach Fuctional within their GCSE course, i.e. integrated.  

AQA Functional Maths - survey of teachers

Functional Maths survey: how are teachers planning to deliver their Functional Maths course?

But we’re aware that leaves 40% of Functional courses that will not be integrated within GCSE.  We want to address them as well, not least because none of the existing books do.  So we’ve developped “Practise the Maths” page spreads.   Every one of our chapters opens with two pages of competency, which offer a recap of the basic maths and some practice.  No-one is pretending this is enough to teach a complete maths course, but it is enough to let students revise their basic skills, and give them a little confidence before they embark on the functional.  Have a look at our sample spread on area & perimeter, below.  

Longman's AQA Functional Maths - area & perimeter

Longman's AQA Functional Maths Student Book - sample spread "Practise the Maths"

What happens next?
All being well, the AQA Functional Maths specification should be accredited in late March of this year.  First teaching will be in September 2010, and the first exam sitting in November 2010.  There are likely to be four sittings per year (although still to be confirmed): January, March, June and November.  Click here to get more detail.
Longman Resources
We will be publishing our Longman AQA Functional Maths series over the Summer of this year: first a Student Book, covering both Levels 1 & 2, then a Teacher Guide and finally an Active Teach.  ActiveTeach shows the Student Book on-screen for front-of-class teaching on a whiteboard.  It comes with a variety of video clips, interactive activities and “Examiner-Live” audio files.  Click here for more detail, or click here to order a free AQA Functional Maths Evaluation Pack – this will get you a free copy of the student book and a guide to the rest of the course.
If you’re reading this and you’re a teacher, we hope our approach chimes with you?  If it doesn’t, please let us know – we won’t get things right without your help!
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