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Is the picture this bleak?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by Elfrune, Apr 27, 2017.

  1. Elfrune

    Elfrune New commenter

    Prediction - the hardest exams in Mathematics (and English) for decades result in incredibly low grade boundaries and students having a bad experience in the exam room. From what I have seen so far, paper 3 seems the worst - nice to leave students with such a negative image of mathematics - well done to the exam boards if this happens. Droves of otherwise bright mathematicians will end up not choosing Mathematics (and English) A level, resulting in elitism at A level with sky high grade boundaries. An already crisis situation of recruiting to the profession (especially Mathematics and English but most probably Science as well) in about 6 years time will become far more real - who would want to join the teaching profession with the pull of so much more money in industry as an increasingly rare University Graduate in mathematics?

    I hope I am wrong, but I think, in trying to raise standards in education in Mathematics and English, it may cause the opposite effect as tens of thousands of competent mathematicians choose not to continue their studies in the subject post-16 and the average ability in the country takes a downward spiral for the next decade.

    Could this possibly be true?
    Maths_Mike and (deleted member) like this.
  2. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    I agree with the OP. Doom and gloom.

    I can't see the solution happening, whatever the solution may be, but I'm certain current government policy will make a bad situation worse.
  3. Higgie

    Higgie New commenter

    I do not agree, those able mathematicians will still move to A-Level, but what we need to do is encourage those who may have done A-Level in the past but got low grades to do the Level 3 Core Maths, which would be a far more appropriate qualification for them, especially for subjects other than maths, physics or maybe engineering. Subjects like business, accounting, biology, chemistry, computing, would be far better served with the Level 3 qualification.
    cach9801 likes this.
  4. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    The situation is truly depressing. Current figures show a sizeable drop in numbers for us at A-level next year as a consequence of the decision only to offer 3 choices. This seems to have affected maths more so than other subjects such as history or English. I think many students opted for maths as a fourth subject, or chose maths as one of four without having much of a preference.
    But, and this is the key thing, many of those higher attaining students ended up appreciating maths more than they imagined and changing pathways during the 6th form, moving to more maths-related degree pathways. It is these high ability GCSE students who are being lost and I don't think Core Maths will adequately fill the gap here since, however presented, it won't be sufficiently challenging.
    Core maths has given the GCSE B and C graders something to do. But there is a void - I fear a whole generation of really quite able A/A* mathematicians who want to do Arts subjects are being lost from the system and this is a big step backwards - back to the situation in the 90s and early 00s.
    In terms of future recruitment, many maths teachers are recruited from non-maths related degrees. Whether we like it or not, that is the case. I'm one of them - completely unrelated degree, trained to teach another subject but retrained to teach maths early in my career. What you tend to look for in such people is a good A-level in maths. Would a Core maths qualification be sufficient in such circumstances? I fear not.
  5. Ezioclone

    Ezioclone New commenter

    I disagree with the O.P.
    If you just view the new GCSE exams in isolation, then I can see your point but the new GCSEs are largely designed to 'exploit' the new National Curriculum and age-related expections in KS1, KS2, KS3,.. I have been doing some work in Primary for ~6 months (and for years before that) and I see a very distinct improvement occurring in the numeracy standards of Primary students. As the years progress, these students will feed through into Secondary schools and there will be a huge opportunity to capitalise on these improved 'basic skills' (which we, in Secondary, have 'demanded' for years).
    The new GCSe Grading structure is also forcing some (IMO previously too complacent) Secondary Heads to take Maths more seriously from Year 7 onwards, and this too will have a long-term, sustained benefit on 'final' GCSE outcomes.

    If you look at the bigger picture it's much brighter IMO (despite the short-term, narrow issues that can frustrate us at the moment).

  6. Elfrune

    Elfrune New commenter

    Lovely to hear the primary schools are seeing an improvement in Mathematics, numeracy, most probably English etc - but I only teach year 9 and above. I am fearful for my year 9, 10 and 11 as they face these new GCSE exams, and am seeing numbers choosing mathematics A level dip dramatically. Had I chosen anything other than mathematics A level I would not be teaching mathematics now. I really hope the situation sorts itself out, and rapidly, and the students get to have a good experience of mathematics in their GCSE. It would be a shame for many to not choose mathematics A level because of a bad experience in an exam at the end of year 11. Just my opinion, but if the exam is as demanding as the mock papers, I fail to see many being inspired no matter what the norm referenced grade is if they get below 50% right in the exam. I'd love to say year 11 are taking this in their stride - but they are not at my school. Each year they appear to panic more - and more and more tend to approach the ostrich syndrome each year as they cannot cope. The new style GCSE has escalated these problems. I believe they have more quotes to learn than ever in English, more mathematics formula to learn than ever, and our year 10s are put off science at the moment having just tried a very demanding mock paper. I worry about the immediate future but welcome the higher ability coming from primary feeder schools.
  7. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    See Curriculum 2000 for what happens when you make maths exams too hard, less students doing maths.
    Maths_Mike likes this.
  8. Elfrune

    Elfrune New commenter

    Slightly before my time - started about 14 years ago - do please enlighten?
  9. PFCDaz

    PFCDaz New commenter

    uptake dropped by over 20% due to the introduction of a new specification that quickly gained a reputation for being harder, it took years for the numbers to recover (after the specs were tweaked somewhat), although the upward trend has continued to the numbers we have now.
    Elfrune likes this.
  10. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    Curriculum 2000 was the change in A levels that gave us the AS/A2 structure that is now ending. Most subjects were fine but Maths was a disaster. It was too hard, some exams had a modal (most common) mark of zero. Numbers plummeted and by 2004, a revised specification was introduced significantly reducing the content and making the AS year easier.
    Elfrune likes this.
  11. Elfrune

    Elfrune New commenter

    Is it likely to happen again? I feel it will (by up to 50% if my school is anything to go by)?
  12. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    I think there is a good chance of it happening again. Same issue as last time, rushing new specifications without proper piloting.
    Maths_Mike likes this.
  13. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    Totally agree - the last thing we needed was harder exams - with low grade boundaries. Totally demoralising and promoting the view that maths is a subject to be hated

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