## A conic extention

This week has been a strange one, I’ve been trying to shake an illness but it keeps on getting worse, and my lessons have been disrupted a little bit by mock examinations. This, however, has given me a chance to work.woth small groups in some classes and to see how some classes are getting on with their courses.

In one of further maths lessons a student who takes maths but not further maths asked if he could.sit in the classroom and revise for his maths, asking if he needed help, I said it was fine and started the lesson,which was a review of the conic sections topic and an assessment sheet to identify any areas of weakness that may be apparent. I gave the none further maths student a spare copy of the assessment sheet, told him it was basically C1 skills but applied in a much more algebra heavy context, and asked him to have a crack.

Not only did he have a good crack at it, he answered it near perfectly. I was extremely pleased with his resilience in working through a question that has way more algebra than anything he’s looked at before and was glad he could make the links to the C1. His thoughts on the question were interesting, and I think they allowed the rest of the class to see more clearly how the conic section of FP1 fits with, and build on, the coordinate geometry sections in C1 and 2.

I think that in future I will use these parabola and hyperbola questions with all my high attaining AS maths students.

*This was cross-posted to the “One Good Thing” blog here.*

## A few thoughts on this week’s exams

This week my A Level students sat their Core 1 and Core 2 exams. Both papers were, in my opinion, fairly nice. Although there were questions on each paper that were asked a tad differently that threw a few students.

The general consensus amount my students, and other teachers I’ve spoken to, differed majorly between the year 12 students and the year 13s who were re taking for whatever reason. Year 13, on the whole, found the papers much easier than year 12.

This got me thinking about the make up of the A Level course and the placement of exams. I’ve long thought that sitting all the exams at the end if year 13 would be beneficial. When I arrived at university I met friend Steve for the first time. In one if those early conversations we discussed the make up of our A-level courses and he explained how he had done a modular course, but sat them all at the end. I suggested that seemed silly and he disagreed, saying “but P1 is well easy once you’ve done P6” (those were the days before “pure” modules became core modules).

We’re both maths teachers now, and at somepoint recently we had a similar discussion and we both agreed that this was probably the case. And anecdotal evidence from this week’s exams seems to suggest that this is indeed true. So perhaps the move to terminal exams is better? (Although I do think 3 and a half hours is too long for an exam, and would rather see more papers!)

Another thing struck me about the discussions around these papers I had with year 12. One student, who is extremely gifted at maths, commented on the C2 exam “that’s the most enjoyable exam I’ve ever had, it was ace.” Another commented that she “proper loved it” when asked about the C1 exam. This made me look at the papers again, with the first student I mentioned. He said he didn’t understand why some people had found it difficult, and it occurred to me that the ones who had found it easier in year 12 were the ones who had spent more time on the underlying mathematical concepts, and the ones who had focused on “will this be in the exam” were the ones that struggled, relatively speaking. This is why I try to answer “yes” to every variant of this question. (The only exception being a few proofs that may be nice, but don’t enhance understanding and aren’t required to access the content.)

The other exam this week was M3, this was nice enough, for an M3 paper. It was hard, but M3 IS hard. I don’t understand why it was scheduled so early on in the session.

All in all quite a nice set of papers, I’m quite looking forward to the next ones!