New GCSE – what’s the problem?

1 May

The new GCSE continues to cause a lot of teachers I know some sleepless nights! The thing which worries me is not so much the new content but the style of the exam papers. It is clear via the specimen and four set of practice papers published so far that they are much less routine and less accessible than the current specification. Again, this isn’t really an issue in itself,  I welcome the challenge and problem solving, I just hope I have been able to provide my students with the skills they need.

The main challenge I’m facing with my students is developing their resilience as well as the tools in their problem solving arsenal. I’m a great believer in the simplest solution being the best one and so to tackle my concerns I’m simply trying to expose my pupils to as many different problems as frequently as possible. Above is a picture of how students can “Plan for QWC”  using this window overlay. The aim of the overlay is to help pupils breakdown the complexity of the problems; not always useful but has been for most students in the beginning.

Here are just some of the resources I’m using;

AQA have released a set of 90 maths problem solving resources, download from here.

These short problems from nrich make great starters across ages and abilities. They can also be used by tutors during form time if you don’t already have a numeracy programme. There’s a good deal of variety in terms of style of problem and difficulty.

This free problem solving booklet from La Salle comes with teacher notes, I’m using problems from it as homework tasks for years 7 and 8 but it could easily be linked into your SOW for use in lessons.

The premium bundles from NumberLoving are developed specifically with the new GCSE in mind. The mysteries in particular help to develop resilience and thinking skills.

Don Steward’s Median blog has an unbelievable and great range of activities, including this problem solving section. Also check out this post Favourite Problems from Joanne Morgan writer of award winning Resourceaholic.com.

Check out these 16 Round 9-1 GCSE Maths Problem Solving questions from m4ths.com by Steve Blades.

When students are working on problem solving tasks I have a rule that they can’t ask questions for 5 minutes (you can get some good timers here). I’ve found this really helps them to start thinking for themselves and exploring different options. I also have a list of strategies on the wall in my room which can sometimes help them get started (see below).

Problem solving strategies

  • Draw a diagram or picture
  • Make a model
  • Try to spot any patterns
  • Can you solve an easier problem (make the numbers easier)
  • Write what you know on the diagram
  • Can you form a right angled triangle?
  • Try a number and see if it works (trial and improvement)
  • Make a list or a table
  • Don’t obsess over what you’ve been asked for, focus on what you know and what you can work out
  • Can you express anything using algebra?
  • What topic is this assessing, think about what you know on this topic

Hopefully if I keep at it my students will become more confident and independent mathematicians and therefore as a matter of course they are able to succeed at the new GCSE. I’d really like to hear other ideas and resources people are using,  get in touch @numberloving and check out our free and premium resources in our TES NumberLoving Store.

This blog post has been sat in drafts for over 12 months! Thankfully in that time there has been a wealth of resources created and shared, too many to include in this post. I have tweaked this draft a little and published, thanks for the encouragement from Twitter Colleagues @ColleenYoung and @mhorley

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One Response to “New GCSE – what’s the problem?”

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  1. New GCSE – what’s the problem? | ma... - March 29, 2016

    […] The new GCSE is causing a lot of teachers I know some sleepless nights! The thing which worries me is not so much the new content but the style of the exam papers.  […]

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