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Have you ever been asked by a student, “What am I doing this for?” or, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?”

I know I have, and sometimes I’ve fumbled around to try and give an example that they might understand! Part of the trouble is that we sometimes simplify the maths down to make it accessible and often give questions without context for practice of a technique, but this ceases to be relevant to a real-world example.

I remember learning rules such as:

  • + + = +
  • — = +
  • – + = –
  • +-=-

then working through a lot of practice questions such as:

  • 4- -8 =

which were quite straight forward if you followed the rule.

But then, in a science lesson, we needed to work out the temperature change by subtracting two numbers, one of which was negative. I didn’t apply the rule we had learnt in maths, because I didn’t think it would give me the right answer in science!

I wonder how many other students just don’t make the connection either. To some, maths can become abstract because they haven’t seen it as a tool to be used in regular life experiences or their other subjects. As we know well, they will use maths in almost every other subject, from analysing and interpreting results in science experiments, to collecting and summarising data from surveys in the social sciences, to understanding the role of probabilities when looking at decision making in Business Studies.

Core Maths, otherwise known as Mathematical Studies by AQA, Mathematics for Everyday Life by NCFE, Mathematics in Context by Pearson Edexcel, or Core Maths by OCR is a level 3 qualification which helps to address this issue for students who want to continue studying maths after they have completed their GCSE, but do not wish to study A level Mathematics.

But what happens when students apply for a job or a level 4 course, and haven’t studied any maths for two years? This is definitely a disadvantage for most. The Core Maths courses, as many of the names imply, take the maths from ordinary but realistic situations that people will encounter in day-to-day life and within their careers, such as their personal finance, research methods for their course of study, and understanding national and global issues. Teachers and students of this course alike, with whom I have spoken, have consistently been enthusiastic about the subject.  

Are your Key Stage 4 students aware of this option? If this is a course that is not offered to your sixth form students, then please speak to your local Area Coordinator who can help you to get started. There are many work groups, courses and conferences which are useful for finding out more and acquiring the relevant skills and pedagogy. For more information or relevant support, please visit our website.

By Hazel Santineer

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