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Mike Baxter, Assistant AC in the North West

Teachers recently met at the Liverpool and Manchester Key Stage 5 Network Meetings to discuss the delivery of A level Further Mathematics, exploring the implications to teaching of the 2018 AS exam papers.

The meetings started with a broad look at wider issues, such as whether Further Mathematics should be taught in parallel with A level Mathematics, or whether waiting until Year 2 was best. There were merits and problems with both approaches, usually driven by the constraints of budget, timetabling or staffing experience. Most of the teachers were following the Edexcel specification, with smaller numbers following each of the other three specifications.

Several teachers expressed concerns about planning a programme of study, since much of the Further Mathematics content had prerequisites which were often covered in the latter stages of the A level course. Exam boards suggested possible schedules, but we also recommended that teachers consider the AMSP’s web-based planner, which could flag up potential clashes and prerequisite material.

After reviewing the available support and PD events offered by the AMSP, the focus shifted to the exam content and marking. The following points seemed to crop up regularly, regardless of the exam board:

  • All boards commented on poor diagrams, illegible hand-writing and poor algebraic skills.
  • Students seemed unprepared for the new content and lacked practice in similar questions (e.g. many responses were completely blank).
  • Students seemed unprepared for modelling questions and their limitations (e.g. modelling the capacity of a bottle using volumes of revolution, where full methods are needed).
  • Applied questions may contain extended lines of reasoning from core maths (e.g. applying logarithm laws).
  • Using inefficient methods (e.g. transforming the roots of a polynomial by coefficient properties rather than applying a single substitution).
  • Calculators are expected to be used but a method should also be written.
  • Poor use of diagrams (e.g. the relative location of conjugate pairs on an Argand diagram)
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