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Decision Maths

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parramore 27 November 2008 17:53
I've had posted a discussion document on the future of Decision Maths at A level - look under the "Documents" tab.

Please let's have your thoughts on it.

Keith Parramore
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suedepom 28 November 2008 17:22
I completely agree with the arguments you have put in the paper (if nnot exactly all the detail). Decision Maths is the most used, and most useful branch of maths out there is what we refer to as "the real world" (though why education isn't real I can't say) and, having worked so hard to get it on specifications, it seems ludicrous now to be thinking of removing or reducing it. Every branch of applied maths has it's supporters (I love mechanics too) but maths is a huge subject and students will go out needing a variety of different skills depending on their HE/career choices. By removing this we are depriving them of the opportunioty to see a tyoe of amthematics which is, in many ways, unlike the topics they have met at GCSE but which they are most likely to use in their future careers.
I agree that it is an ideal way to teach modelling and problem solving, the very skills that are so prized so highly by HE and employers. Hopefully it will still be available to those doing a Further Maths qualification, but this really isn't enough.
However, I think there is a much bigger issue hiding here, as numbers taking maths increase again, this is the wrong time to be thinking of changing the structure of A level. We cureently have a structure that works and that teachers and students are happy with.
If it ain't broke why are they trying to fix it?
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StellaDudzic 02 December 2008 15:23
I had a bit of trouble finding the document but then discovered that there is a documents tab when you are at the "Secondary Forum" opening screen.

It can be very difficult to examine techniques in a written examination that were designed for use on computers - to make the problem  simple enough to do by hand can obscure the need for the algorithm.  The use of powerful calculators does offer a way forward for students to be able to use the techniques on more realistically sized problems but careful thought will need to be given to how students can show the examiner what they have done.
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parramore 02 December 2008 23:00 - Last edited by parramore on 02 December 2008 23:18

Hi Stella,

Thanks for this.  Do note that we have given a lot of thought to having the examiner see what the candidates are doing when they are using a computer.

It works OK with a computer.  We'd have to adapt to the lack of printing facilities if we were using a calculator


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gtelfer 17 December 2008 10:10

Having read the article, I agree with Keith's sentiments on keeping Decision Maths in the specification.

As a teacher of Further Maths, Decision modules offer some 'easy' marks as they are not overly tricky and broaden the breadth of study available to students.  Also Decision Modules offer a more appropriate and accessible applied option to students who do not study other science subjects and are focussing on business studies and the like.

I believe that we should be keeping Decision Maths as it is one of the most applicable application of mathematics in the real world.


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kathrynp 17 December 2008 15:06
I echo what Gerald has written.

In our large sixth form college, about two thirds of our AS students take a Decision Maths module, the other third taking Mechanics. Whilst most students take Statistics in the upper sixth, there are also 2 groups taking D2. Our Further Maths students get the opportunity to study all three applications.
This year all the Economics students have been advised to take Maths A Level, and for them Decision Maths, followed by Statistics is very appropriate.

I'm an engineer by training, so like mechanics, but I actually prefer teaching Decision Maths!
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gbird 04 January 2009 12:48 - Last edited by gbird on 04 January 2009 12:48
I agree with a lot of what you say but have doubts about the “powerful calculators”. Certainly I do not think you should assume access to computers is possible. There are many students from less well off backgrounds and we must not assume they all have access to computers as it will exclude them from the syllabus – I used to teach at an inner city comp and know this to be a problem for some. With regard to “powerful calculators” quite what do you mean? I think you should look at the currently available Casio calcs particularly fx-991ES but should not assume students have graphical or programmable calcs as these are generally less good for ordinary mathematical use. Incidentally, I think you should look at the fx-991ES anyway and consider that many students are using this in their pure maths papers!
I’ve taught Decision maths at both the inner city comp and my current very academic grammar school. In the former we introduced D1 as it was more accessible to the less able students than M1, with a resulting increase in results and the students enjoyed it very much (this was the old Edexcel D1). In my current school we have a large number of maths students and give them options for their applied modules (MEI). We use D1 as an alternative to S2 or M2 in the upper 6th and particularly recommend it to those studying computing or business. Our Further maths students all study it. I would be very sad to see it disappear or only available in further maths. For students who find S1 difficult I don’t think M1 is an appropriate follow on option unless they are actually studying physics, in which case they probably should have taken it first.
I introduce D1 by showing an underground map to show them what is meant by a graph and teaching the networks chapter, which is immediately accessible and gives the students a real world application. I find this grabs their attention and interest much more than the algorithms or graph theory, much of which can be taught as you go along. Kruskal’s and Prim’s on a network can be taught completely in one lesson and you have your students in there and fired with enthusiasm. Please don’t drop these!
I hope this is helpful
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lizw 31 January 2009 12:25
I agree that we should keep Decision Maths.

For a long time we only taught it to the Further Maths students but last year decided that all year 12 students studying Maths should do D1. The students like the real life application of Maths and I would be loath to stop offering Decision to all.

Please keep Decision Maths in A level otherwise they will only meet this important branch of Maths at university.
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SamBoardman 03 February 2009 11:42
Hi Keith

I hope Joan and yourself are well.

Enjoyed a fantastic week in Sestriere over Christmas - did you go to Cervinia again?

Help me as a dummy

I clicked all the links round the Secondary Forum page alongside your dashing photo but can't find any documents tab.

I came to this page via the MEI website.

Don't know if you heard about the QCA meeting last week where the core is proposed to have a bit of Mechanics and a bit of Stats but no mention of Decision Maths - hence the interest in your paper.

My email address is sam-boardman@supanet.com

Best wishes

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vcaley 05 February 2009 10:20
I can't find a documents tab. It made me feel foolish until I read some of the replies and realised I'm not the only one!
Viv Caley
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