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Why is there no 'Numeracy GCSE'?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mature_maths_trainee, Mar 30, 2012.

  1. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    I understand that the NC 'requires' that the Maths NC is taught to all, but is there anything to prevent having a separate 'Numeracy' GSCE [that, for example, excludes virtually all algebra, the creation of graphs (though not their interpretation), etc.)].
    It could be designed to be made very challenging (for example, by the speed with which students needed to complete the questions; or by requiring students to 'pass' the same type of tests on two or three occasions (thereby providing some evidence of retention).
    It would be instantly respected by industry (though possibly less so academia?). Some students would be much more motivated to sit such an exam, becuase it would be easier to convince them of 'relevance' to their world.
    I could see the more able Maths students completing their Numeracy GCSE a year (or three) early.

    What's stopped this happening over the last 10-20+ years?
    I thought examination bodies largely responded to 'the market' and school's needs? Is there a fear it wouldn't be sanctioned by OFQUAL or whatever? Why not?
    Is it schools, or maths teachers that are against it?

    I think something like this would completely re-invigorate the teaching of Maths (generally) in the UK and be a significant step towards changing adult attitudes to the subject. It wouldn't, or certainly needn't reduce 'standards in any way IMO. [Maths would, no doubt, retain a high degree of prestige, and it students *chose* to do the Maths exam it would remove a great deal of resentment.
    I can't see any particularly difficult issues with it at all, just plenty of pros. So what am I missing?

  2. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    It's not difficult enough.

    GCSEs are full "level 2" qualifications - something like the functional skills L2 tests are at the same level, but only count as a "half-GCSE" because of the narrow specification.

    Governments. The last lot were desperately fighting the class war some of their supporters still feel is being raged and didn't want schools taking the easy way out and only teaching labour voters' kids "numeracy" instead of "maths" which is required for entry to university.

    Personally, I believe there should be a level 2 numeracy test (like the functional skills one) which should be compulsory with those that pass it able to drop maths after year 9.

    I really don't think most of the population needs nor wants much of what it taught in GCSE (stuff the international comparisons!) - anyone who does find, later in life, that they actually do need to know how to draw a cumulative frequency diagram or solve an equation can find out how to do both then when the skills are more relevant to them.
  3. Have you come across the "Certificate in Use of Maths"?
    The only problem is it can't be counted as a GCSE in Maths for school league tables - it would not be sufficient preparation for mathematical A levels etc due to the limited algebra. Therefore it is mostly used in sixth forms/colleges for those who need to resit.
    Hope this is of interest
  4. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Have you looked into Functional Skills?
  5. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    Totally agree re single award numeracy.
    If English can have two exams (now both lit based and not even covering writing a proper letter) why should maths which is harder for most pupils, not?
  6. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    totally agree, should be double award. English is easier for most pupils and has a double award in very similar areas of expertise.
  7. Molesworth2

    Molesworth2 New commenter

  8. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    I know other Numeracy exams exist.
    My point is, wouldn't it be far better (for the Maths education of the whole country, for every student (either doing one, or both), for us Maths teachers, and even for the schools (reduced student and parental resistance to 'Maths'), if there were a Numeracy *GCSE*? (with all the respect that confers).
    It would also mean that, for those students intending to 'only' take Numeracy GCSE, their Maths lessons could cover a much wider, and potentially more interesting Maths syllabus. Fractals or asymmetirc cryptography, for example. [Not to actually understand the Maths, but to at least appreciate the real Maths that underlies much of nature and technology (and is not even hinted at in the Maths GCSE course!].
    Numeracy on it's own is a sufficiently large topic, *and can easily be made sufficiently challenging*, that it could be a full GCSE. One that could well be harder for some students to achieve than a (current) Maths GCSE.
    The only reason I can deduce is political & social prejudice, snobbery, and inertia - that feels it will be a watered down and eaier 'Maths'. That's clearly what the current 'Numeracy' or 'Use of Maths' exams are, but a full 'Numeracy GCSE' needn't be. For example, how many years will it be before we can have online (or at least computer-based) exams, in which (for some questions) the students must answer each question 'speedily' (within a certain time). This would be like, a possibly harder than the current 'Numeracy' test trainee teachers must pass. But I envisage a full Numeracy GCSE would be more rigorous than just mental arithmetic.
    I really just cannot get my head around the fact people assume it would be 'easy' (or easier than the current 'Maths GCSE'. It would surely be very easy to make it hard?

    Sorry, off my soapbox now. ;-)

    Wouldn't the introduction of a Numeracy GCSE be a grand objective for the national numeracy campaign project?
  9. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    The current government could introduce a numeracy GCSE but risk being attacked by the opposition on the grounds of:

    [*]Dumbing down - abandoning their so-called commitment to high standard in Education.
    [*]Abandoning social mobility - limiting the attainment of children from poor areas by pushing them towards a non-gold-standard qualification.
    [*]Admitting failure. Introducing an alternative to the gold-standard shows the government's policies on improving education have failed.
    In short, a decision to introduce a more "vocational" maths is "just the sort of thing people would expect a pro-selection Nasty Party to do". So they can't actually do it without being hit hard in the polls.

    And the last government couldn't do it because it made "social mobility" and "inclusion" its goals for education. Everyone must have their chance to get to university (even though at least 50% have no interest or intention to get there), so everyone must (regardless of interest or aptitude) study the subjects necessary to pass matriculation. (Even if they have no chance of passing - which is, of course not politically acceptable either and therefore must be the fault of the schools.

    We - and more importantly, the kids - are trapped in this ***** waving politics. We cannot offer appropriate courses as doing so indicates we're poor teachers willing to write off an underclass.

    You can borrow mine if you like.

    When the government and head of Ofsted talk about making all schools "above average", and when the most popular entertainment show in the country frequently talks of being "110% certain", "1000000% yes", do you really think there's a chance of a working "National Numeracy Campaign"?
  10. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Thanks for the explanation. I understand the socio-political barriers to this better now.
    So a different approach. 'Bottom-up'. A (collective) initiative from teachers/schools/parents/unions themselves? Given the success of 'open source' in the (global) ICT community, and increasing web-based & social-media-based power of (say, the petrol price protests some years ago, and the current Which? campaign to negotiate with energy suppliers on behalf of a 'collective' of households), I'm surprised at the lack of 'collective bargaining power' and true 'collaboration' witin the teaching profession.
    Sure, there's a great deal of excellent resource sharing on TES and dedicated websites, as well as the forums themselves, but it's overwhelmingly individuals sharing their work/ideas with other individuals. Unlike (say) 'open source' in the ICT community, there's no(?) truely collective initiatives to take on truely *big* tasks (requiring more work than any one person can achieve). For example, someone might feel that it's worthwhile creating a comprehensive set of teaching resources in Geogebra. Or a set of GCSE-orientated 'homework' activities based on Geogebra. Or a set of GCSE-oriented resources using Kagan-style cards. Or using Promethean's voting mote system. Or perhaps some sub-community would like to create many more 'Dan Meyer'-style open problems. [I'm just trying to give some diverse examples, rather than these being my favourites]. To set up a comprehensive, high-quality set of such resources is a very big undertaking. What happens at present is that individual teachers make their own attempts, and (generously) often share them on TES, or their own website.
    But in the global ICT community, it's much more likely such initiatives would be pursued truly collaboratively (and compete, to some degree, with truly commercial products). Someone would come up with the idea, and maybe create a few examplar resources, but (through coordination) others would voluntarily join in and collectively seek to create a comprehensive version of the resource. Obvioulsy, depending upon the level of support, some initiatives fail, but some succeed. And succeed in tackling big problems that couldn't be achieved individually.
    Given the generally high degree of intelligence amongst teachers (esp secondary Maths, obviously ;-) ), I'm surprised there's not a much greater use of such collaborative mechanisms. Especially given the number of serious problems people discuss.
    That's my hope, anyway.


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