Any Maths GCSE teachers about?

(22 Posts)
TippyTappyLappyToppy Wed 16-Mar-16 04:49:18

Could someone please explain to me whether/why it's better to do foundation maths for a student who struggles and would be a borderline C/D in the higher level paper? I know you can't get higher than a C in foundation but I've also heard that the questions are much much easier across the whole paper so it's easier to get the C in foundation than it is in Higher.

I am having a discussion with someone who seems to think it will be easier to get the C in the higher level because the student only has to know a few topics well, and get those questions right (for about 25% I think, to get the C?) whereas in foundation they need to get 80% covering many more topics. But what if those topics the student knows well don't come up? confused

But I've also been told that some of the questions in foundation level are things like 'measure this line with a ruler' hmm So getting 80% shouldn't be beyond the remit of most people who do not have SEN.

My argument is that unless you are predicted borderline B/C at higher level you are better to play safe and take foundation, because your C is going to be much easier to obtain, and a C is what most people require to move forward with anything, whereas a D at higher level is useless for most courses at most half decent universities. (not that this person wants to study anything with a maths element.)

Thoughts please?

Fleck Wed 16-Mar-16 05:03:49

This is not an easy question to answer and it's one that teachers struggle with. When we first changed to a two tier system (approx 8 years ago) it did seem to be 'easier' to get a C on the higher paper. However the exam boards cottoned on to this quite quickly and changed the papers. Over the subsequent years it has generally been accepted that for a student with no chance of a B or higher, foundation is their best bet. (For a while schools could dual enter their students for different tiers/ exam boards so could compare, not allowed now). Yes it's true that you need to know less material to get a C on higher but what you need to know is challenging for a student at that level and they will find it difficult to access the questions. The foundation paper starts at grade G so the early questions are very straightforward. With borderline groups we will try them out with past papers for both tiers before entering them for the exams. If they do not want to carry on with any maths or science based study then the tier they take should not be relevant in the future.

TippyTappyLappyToppy Wed 16-Mar-16 05:46:15

Thank you for your help.

TeenAndTween Wed 16-Mar-16 07:54:01

When noblegiraffe comes on, listen to her as she is a maths teacher.

Normally the advice seems to be that it is easier to get a C on the higher paper for most students.

On the foundation paper you have to know a lot of topics well, and not make silly mistakes . You have to work fast enough to get through the whole paper. However the questions start easier but then gradually get harder to you get a run in to them.

With the higher paper you have to get a lot fewer correct, so that means you don't have to spend time attempting questions that are beyond you. But if you are good at a couple of topics there may be easy questions and harder ones on the paper you can get marks on to get the C.

MummySparkle Wed 16-Mar-16 08:00:12

The issue with taking the higher paper is that there will be a lot of topics on there that havent been covered in teaching for foundation. If you make a silly mistake on one of the C grade questions then it will be hard to make up the marks elsewhere as the questions will be quite alien. The way to make it up would be to try and get method marks in some of the harder questions, but if you have no idea what they mean then it's easy to give up. The first questions on the higher paper are usually the same as the last questions on the foundation paper. If you lose a few marks on them in the foundation paper then chances are it will be okay because the first questions will have been understood and there is a much greater chance of getting method marks as at least the topics will be familiar and you would probably do something right in trying to answer them

lljkk Wed 16-Mar-16 08:31:51

My mate battled (won) to get her DD to be allowed to sit foundation GCSE math paper (at a high achieving girl's school).

It just completely undermined the girl's confidence to have pages & pages of material in the exam paper that she knew she would struggle with, and to be told to keep trying to learn all that stuff when struggled to master more basic methods. The girl only needed a C to go forward, and was going to get into a complete state if she couldn't focus on what she needed.

TeenAndTween Wed 16-Mar-16 08:33:42

After second thinking, in this situation I would go with whatever the school is advising unless I had good reason for think they didn't understand my particular child.

tiggytape Wed 16-Mar-16 09:48:55

noblegiraffe is the one that knows about this stuff but the general points I've seen made are:
- It can be easier to get a C grade from the higher paper than the foundation one.
- With the lower paper, you cannot afford mistakes as you have to achieve a very high % overall to pass. You have to work quickly and accurately.
- People who study for the higher paper but then sit the lower paper may have forgotten (or at least not covered in years) half the things that are on the lower paper so may lose marks on those through being rusty. It isn't all measuring lines - there will also be topics that they have covered but long ago.

The school have the advantage of knowing what is on the papers generally (perhaps not so much for the current Year 10's) and of having seen hundreds of pupils of a similar ability go through GCSE maths. They almost certainly know what works for pupils on a C/D border more than the parents or even the child unless there is a very specific extra concern that could affect exam performance.

CanvasAwning Wed 16-Mar-16 21:07:50

My DS is C/D borderline and is taking the higher but he has always been in a class where they are covering the higher material. He's getting some last minute tutoring and a sixth former comes for an hour a week to go through papers with him. I think (hope) he should just about make a C. School have never mentioned him doing the foundation.

I know of some retake students last year who were getting very very high Ds on the foundation paper (only one or two marks off on two retakes) but managed Cs on the higher.

noblegiraffe Wed 16-Mar-16 23:21:01

People have already posted what I would post!

There's no single answer to this question, neither is definitely easier than the other, it depends on the child and how they've been taught up to the exam.

My school has a 90% pass rate so we seem to be quite good at tier decisions. We head for higher with 'should be C' candidates and drop down if they seem to be struggling. We do foundation with the 'pushing up to a C' kids.

Getting a C on foundation is a matter of endurance, having to be careful not to make silly mistakes, remembering lots of different topics (symmetry, fractions, transformations, angle rules, averages, algebraic manipulation etc - it's not all measuring lines, and that's before you get to the C grade stuff of area of circles, Pythagoras and so on).

Getting a C on higher is about being able to face a paper you can't answer most of (this is an issue for anxious students), keeping your nerve to spot the questions you can do, and hoping they don't put a twist on your favourite topics. Tactical teaching of B grade topics is needed to make up for missed marks on the C grade stuff - the difference between a C and a D for a higher candidate is often whether they've been taught cumulative frequency - an accessible B grade topic.

A kid who has been taught higher up till the last minute then drops to foundation may well find that they aren't losing marks on the C grade stuff, but on the earlier stuff because they have forgotten how to do subtraction with borrowing, or can't remember how many lines of symmetry a regular pentagon has. A foundation kid who is switched to higher at the last minute would be thrown by how difficult the paper seems, and would not have the select B grade knowledge to get them over the line.

TippyTappyLappyToppy Wed 16-Mar-16 23:27:41

That is really helpful, thank you everyone. It's all much clearer now.

CanvasAwning Thu 17-Mar-16 06:47:12

Thanks Noble - now off to heavily revise cumulative frequency. Do you have any other tips? Any other "easy" B grade stuff that we could revise heavily?

CointreauVersial Thu 17-Mar-16 21:46:46

This is all very interesting. DS has been teetering between Foundation and Higher for the last 18 months (he's Y11), but has been putting in the effort over the last few months and is improving steadily. It seemed so strange to me (a straight A student back in the day) that you could be put forward for an exam when you haven't actually been taught the whole syllabus, but I think I've come to terms with it now.

DS has just done a Higher paper as a mock and got a very high B, which is his best ever. He is capable of a B in June with the wind behind him, and I'm sitting on my hands to prevent myself from tutoring him in topics he hasn't covered, but I think his Maths teacher is doing an excellent job without my "assistance"- covering the topics he needs to secure a C but (clearly) also teaching some of the "B grade" topics (I just checked, and he knows about cumulative frequency!).

TippyTappyLappyToppy Fri 18-Mar-16 05:04:03

So the upshot is that student in question is going to sit the higher paper. If by some fluke he gets a B his mother me will be doing cartwheels in the street and if he gets a D he will have to re-sit and I am really not looking forward to having to have that conversation.

Tia1973 Fri 29-Apr-16 19:10:39

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

paddyclampitt Fri 29-Apr-16 20:58:45

I'm a Maths teacher and this decision is always a minefield!

Something worth considering - is the student in question currently in Y11 or Y10?

If in Y10 there are massive changes ahead!

TrixieBernadette Fri 29-Apr-16 22:19:58

Current Y11 and previous few years we have put anyone who is a solid D or a D/C borderline in higher. You need 20/100 on each paper for a D, 33 or so for a C. Most students can get a C from just the first 9-10 questions taught well.

On foundation you need to know the whole paper and do it well. Only foundation students are those who are E/D or lower.

In a cohort of 150, we have 15 foundation students this year.

Next year will be very different. New GCSE is a beast. Three papers, and grading and style is very different in places.

BertrandRussell Wed 04-May-16 20:07:38

An additional issue with the new GCSEs is the level of literacy needed to access the questions. This is always a problem at our school- we have a low ability cohort and a lot of them struggle with literacy. This means that doing themselves justice in exams is always difficult- and the new Maths is even more difficult than the old.

Polly53 Tue 17-Jan-17 09:17:35

I agree, my daughter can often do the maths but finds it difficult to understand what the question is asking her to do. In my mind the assessment of literacy should have been left out of Maths.

MistyMeena Tue 17-Jan-17 09:25:35

Do teachers have any info/intelligent guesses about grade boundaries for the new 9-1 exams? I know it won't be very clear until after the first exams but would be good to have something to go on!

tiggytape Tue 17-Jan-17 09:33:35

Again noblegiraffe is the person to ask.
I know that the mocks with the current Year 11's have produced mixed results across different schools because some teachers expect the grade boundaries to be drastically different (lower) than others.

On a recent thread about this, noble posted a twitter poll where maths teachers were predicting where the grade 5 pass cut off might fall. Some thought it might be as low as 20/60. Others that it might be as high as 51+ out of 60.

Here's a link to the thread if you wanted to take a look

tiggytape Tue 17-Jan-17 09:36:06

They won't set the boundaries of course until after the exam because they will be set to ensure that the same proportion of people who used to get C or above now get 4 or above. And the same proportion who used to get A or above now get 7 or above.

So teachers might be able to use mock results to see where the cut off should be to ensure the same proportions get A's and C's (7's and 4's) as usual. But they won't know the national picture or how performance in mocks relates to performance in the real thing.

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