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Although the AMSP has its origins in A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics (under the banner of the FMSP), we now, as you’ll know, support teachers and students at GCSE level in order to help them secure a good enough understanding (and confidence, and grades!) to study maths post-16.

At a recent online event for teachers, we looked at the top ten mistakes that students make in their GCSE Mathematics exam. The topics can be seen below (in no particular order) and were based on the AQA Examiner Reports and Exam Insights from 2017-19:

  • Non calculator strategies
  • Algebraic manipulation
  • Averages from frequency tables
  • Ratio
  • Fractions
  • Powers
  • Linear graphs
  • Inequalities
  • Functions
  • Probability

One example we looked at was to do with algebraic manipulation – in particular, solving equations. I’m sure we’ve all heard of, and used, the ‘balance method’ to manipulate and solve equations, and perhaps even drawn a set of scales to exemplify this balancing idea. Another approach, however, was to use bar models, building on students’ earlier experiences with them.

Have a look at these bar models and think about how they could help students to solve equations:

In the session, we looked at teaching strategies specific to each of the ten topics, as well as more generic approaches such as teaching for mastery, teacher-modelling, and the use of representations and manipulatives.

The feedback from the 30+ attendees was very positive – I’ll leave you with some quotes about what they found most useful:

  • There were some really helpful, usable teaching ideas that will help me to improve my current methods.
  • Multiplying fractions using the grid method was new to me and is something I will try with my students.
  • Lots of useful information and methods/techniques… mastery approaches and using manipulatives, MathsBot, algebra tiles, etc.
  • Reminds me that the long term ‘seeds for success’ at GCSE are sown in primary schools and then cultivated in KS3.

For online manipulatives, we used MathsBot.

For more information about teaching for mastery, please contact your local Maths Hub and/or take a look at the NCETM website.

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