## Some interesting questions on the new maths GCSE

I’ve written before about the SAMs (Sample Assessment Materials) for the new GCSE, and currently we are swaying towards Edexcel. We have recently given year ten the SAMs to see how they got on with them and a couple of questions that stood out for me. First was this one:

Students need to find change, fair enough, but them part b seems to be purely testing their understanding of the word “expensive”. This seems a really bizarre question in my opinion, and I’m not sure it fits well on a maths exam. It’s not even really a mathematical term.

Another that stood out was this:

I think this one is a great question that approaches the assessment of fractions knowledge in a new way, it requires a deeper analysis but I do think there is a limitation to it if it isn’t thought out. If this type of question is regularly asked about fractions, then it becomes a “when they ask this you say this” sort of question. This could be combated by asking this type of question about different topics. It’s certainly a question I enjoyed seeing, and is much better to assess deeper learning than he current GCSE, particularly the foundation tier.

The final question that caught my eye was this one:

It’s similar to the type of question on forming and solving equations we see how, but the interesting bit is the additional bit of reasoning students need to apply at the end, ie to work out if the amount of marbles that Dan and Becky have together is odd or even to work out if they can have the same amount.

*Have you noticed any interesting questions cropping up? Have your students attempted the SAMs? If so, how did they get on? I’d love to hear.*

*Cross-posted to Betterqs here.*

You mention testing deeper understanding at foundation level. Is this what we want to do or do we just want them to be able to do some sums? For most foundation pupils I have taught it is a struggle to learn what a square number is. Twice this week 1 student told me that 2 was a square number because 1 × 1 = 2. Yes of course we try and teach understanding over anything else at all levels, I tell my A level pupils to learn it so that they can derive it in the exam. But at Foundation we try and teach solid understanding but I am just happy for the exam to be straightforward, often pupils at that level have a whole host of other issues with which they have to contend.

That’s a much bigger question, one I touched on here https://cavmaths.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/maths-and-numeracy-gcses/ and am working on a post on at the moment. Currently the GCSE is in “maths” and as such teaching maths is its aim, which was where my reflections on this question came from. However I’m not sure maths should be a subject all students have to do. Numeracy is important, but not necessarily the higher level stuff.

These questions are indeed very different. It’s a big shift, not so much in how we teach but how exam boards assess. I wonder how they will be marked, e.g. the fractions Q19, would you get full marks by writing out a full correct method and answer? If not, this is a strong leaning toward assessing literacy / writing skills. It’s the sort of question I personally would have failed miserably at aged 16 even though I would have found the maths easy. Not saying it’s a bad thing, but it’s a significant change.

It is a big shift, and the consideration of what is being assessed certainly needs thinking about.