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Secondary Magazine - Issue 34: From the editor

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 15 May 2009 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 09 June 2009 by ncetm_administrator

Secondary Magazine Issue 34Using a credit card

How did you feel when you heard the news that the requirement to pass Functional Maths at Level 2, to gain a C or higher in GCSE Maths had been dropped? I can’t be the only one to feel a little disappointed, can I?

I very much believe in the problem-solving approach to teaching and learning which is almost a necessity for students to experience Functional Maths, so I was delighted that Functional Maths gave me another opportunity to talk about this, not only with my department but with my SLT too. We’ve been working on strategies to integrate problem solving at all levels and ages for the last year or so (as a response to both Functional Maths and the new KS3 curriculum). Always, Sometimes, Never? questions and Odd One Out activities have become part of our habitual toolkit of lesson strategies. There’s been a noticeable improvement in both our students’ ability to express their opinion and mathematical ideas, and my department’s ability to lead these discussions. Without the ‘hurdle’, would SLT still be supportive of what they see as my ‘new approach’?


Functional Skills haven’t gone away – they’re still embedded in the new GCSEs which will be taught from 2010 (our current year 8) and are integral to the Diplomas. They’re also still going to exist as standalone qualifications worth half a GCSE should we choose to enter students for them.

It’s the embedding in the new GCSE that I think is the key point for me and my department to make sure that we continue working on developing our students’ problem-solving skills. This focus was further reinforced when a friend forwarded me a factsheet from QCA which gives details of two new assessment objectives which place greater emphasis on application and problem solving. The factsheet goes on to say that the questions will change: The assessment of application and problem solving means that candidates need to be given the opportunity to decide for themselves how to tackle a question and to choose the mathematics they will use. As a result, some questions will be longer and less structured.

This is good news, isn’t it?! I know hardly anyone involved in mathematics education who thinks that ‘teaching to the test’, reducing maths to a series of algorithms to be applied without real understanding, is the way that they want to teach. Functional Skills and the new GCSE give us an ideal opportunity to break out of this habit and to continue to develop new, problem-solving behaviour both for ourselves and our students.


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