A Different Angle?
GCSE resit students in the Post-16 sector know that the PASS is all important, and that a C on their results slip will mean that more, and more rewarding, doors are open to them. But they have many barriers to learning that they have built around them over the previous eleven (at least) years of studying maths and, as they see it, failing it again and again. GCSE resit tutors in Post-16 colleges have the task of building confidence as well as teaching maths, of breaking down those barriers and showing their students that it’s not that they have failed in the past, it’s that they just haven’t passed YET.
There are many topics within the Maths GCSE where it is quite easy for students to see the relevance to their “real lives”: Statistical skills to be able to interpret the deluge of infographics or best-buy skills whilst out shopping. However, there are some which cause tutors to flounder when asked that ubiquitous question, “WHEN WILL I EVER NEED THIS?”
GCSE resit students are in your lesson for one thing and one thing only – to move on. Truth be told, they probably will never need circle theorems or Pythagoras in their lives post-GCSE.
It’s difficult to enthuse students when studying the topic of angles in parallel lines, but it’s an ideal place for students to gain marks – an ideal place for them to show off what they know.
Lessons can start with students’ blank faces, and cries of “I’ve never been good at angle questions”. Careful teasing out of the angle facts that they have absorbed through osmosis throughout their previous learning can produce surprising results. They know that angles on a straight line add up to 180 degrees. They know that alternate and corresponding angles are equal. They know that angles in a quadrilateral total 360 degrees. What is lacking is their ability to use these facts to answer questions, and more importantly, their ability to explain the use of such facts.
Here are some effective approaches to help your resit students get the most out of angles in parallel lines, and the like:
- engage students in the problem solving aspects of the questions – entice them into channelling the strategies of Sherlock Holmes, finding the truth through a process of deductions based on facts
- encourage students to annotate the questions, marking on angles they know and can work out, BEFORE they move on to answering the actual question. This gives them the freedom to demonstrate their knowledge before narrowing down to their solution
- model the way your students should approach the question
- demonstrate your thought processes, and your solution, broken down into systematic stages. Seeing a teacher tackle a tricky question with no preparation can be quite enlightening for students. Risky, but certainly worth it!
- make use of tracing paper. If students are having difficulty identifying the equal angles, they can mark on the known angles and slide the paper to discover which angles match up
- when explaining their choices, students need to ensure they give full reasons. Writing “corresponding angles” and leaving it at that, is an extremely frustrating way for them to drop marks
- remind students that mark schemes are applied POSITIVELY. You can never lose marks by giving a question a go…
The Cockcroft Report (1982) tells us that success in mathematics amounts to:
“Confidence to make effective use of whatever mathematic skills and understanding is possessed.”
We can apply this, word for word, to our resit students. It’s not the knowledge they lack, it’s the confidence to use it, and we need to do everything in our power to give students that confidence.
What have you done to overcome your students’ uncertainty with, perhaps even anxiety about, angle facts? What activities, challenges and games have you found to be effective? Let us know, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet us @NCETMsecondary.