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If you teach chemistry or maths to A level, advice gratefully received!

(15 Posts)
Uninspirednamewise Sun 12-Nov-17 00:05:12

My DS is in Year 12. At the start of Year 12, the school made clear that for each A level that students take, they should be doing about 5 hours per week of study in addition to the periods for which they are taught. I am concerned that my DS is not doing anything like that, but for chemistry and maths, I am not really sure what he should be doing as extra. I am happy that he is completing any specific homework tasks that are set. The issue is that those tasks do not come anywhere close to taking 5 hours per week per subject to complete and I'm not sure what sort of extra things he should be doing. At GCSE, DS obtained a good set of results by completing homework (without doing anything extra) and then revising hard in the last few weeks before exams, and I think he is still working to that model. I am concerned that won't be enough for good A level results, but it's difficult trying to have a discussion about it when I'm not sure myself what types of extra work he should be doing.

mehhh Sun 12-Nov-17 07:51:36

Not a teacher but the extra 5 hours will be homework + revision which students will have to do and set themselves just going over the weeks work, going over things for a while ago to refresh so you don't forget etc

Rainbowandraindrops67 Sun 12-Nov-17 07:53:42

Buying him the course textbooks and a couple of other good ones to give a different perspective are a good idea. Get him to read the topic he’s currently working on from a different book.

babybarbarella99 Sun 12-Nov-17 07:56:53

Spending time between each taught lesson, reviewing the content just taught, how it links to and extends existing knowledge. Looking at further worked examples, trying more problems and/or reading over the theory involved in the textbook. Identifying quickly any bits that they don't fully comprehend and seeking help from extra practice and asking the teacher specific questions before/during the next lesson.

Baileystruffle Sun 12-Nov-17 07:58:04

Best thing to do is use the textbook as a basis, and relook over topics done in class at home. He can read through the examples on the textbook and try harder questions that he maybe didn't get onto in class. He needs to make sure he really understands the topics as he does them, but also look over old topics so he does not forget them. Closer to exams the best thing to do is do past papers, mark them himself using mark schemes then look up how to do any questions he got wrong.

cakeandcustard Sun 12-Nov-17 08:11:54

From a maths perspective if the set homework is not filling up his study time I would expect him to do a few more questions on the same topic for independent study. Books often have problems highlighted as exam style or harder in each chapter - he can do all of those. The physics and maths tutor website is a good resource, it has exam questions organised by subject. There's a wealth of study material online, no end of A-level style material. That should keep him busy grin

Bekabeech Sun 12-Nov-17 08:21:45

I wouldn’t panic yet. But he should start going back through his notes making sure he understands what has gone before. I personally did the condense morning notes and then re-condense to even briefer notes method. Which means from key words and phrases I could reproduce everything - or Maths I had the basic method/equation and could solve problems from that.
CGP are quite good, as is looking at past exam questions on what he has done.
Also for maths there are questions that ask you to apply knowledge in non straightforward ways. I think there are specific books to help with this that might be helpful.

graphena Sun 12-Nov-17 08:23:44

Hello, Head of Chemistry here. I always recommend my students to reread their notes from the lessons, in conjunction with the textbook, adding notes as needed, then try some sample questions (our textbook has question boxes on most pages). As time goes on he could also try some exam style questions.
I also recommend they read ahead to familiarise themselves with the material for the next lesson and maybe do some wider reading, such as from the royal society of Chemistry (students can sign up for free) or on websites. is a brilliant resource which explains the basics really clearly, has lots of clearly marked extension material and questions for each topic with answers.
At the moment, he probably doesn't need to be spending 5 hours on it, but as it gets closer to mocks, he needs to up his hours.

noblegiraffe Sun 12-Nov-17 10:24:07

What worked for maths GCSE won’t work for A-level because they are taught differently. At GCSE there is loads of lesson time spent doing questions, there’s lots of time spent doing past papers and there is lesson time to spend re-teaching weak topics and revising. At A-level, teaching time is tight, not much lesson time is spent on questions, questions take longer to do and teachers need to get through the content. Therefore he should be doing lots of questions at home to reinforce what was taught in the lesson, to ensure he understands it, and to extend it, even if not set specifically as homework. If he’s not good at a topic, or his homework is poor, he needs to spend time going over it. It’s his responsibility to do this, it won’t be covered again and that teacher needs to crack on with the rest of the course. He also needs to revise topics that have been covered to keep them fresh, and when he has covered enough of the course, do past papers (a lot of content is the same as the old A-level so could use these).

Sixth form students find it hard to get their head around this as at GCSE their teacher would have organised their learning and study for them.

Witchend Sun 12-Nov-17 11:57:19

5 hours surely is an estimate based on an average student? I don't think I did any maths outside lessons until the last bit of further mechanics which took a little bit more thought.
Dd1 is doing maths and chemistry and she's spending way more on that for Chemistry, but less on maths because she finds it easier, and the way it's taught is with less work for them to do on their own.

Dd1 was told that they should be doing approximately the same amount out of lessons as in lessons.

Has he started having tests at school yet? Dd1's had a few which has given her an idea how she's doing.

noblegiraffe Sun 12-Nov-17 12:10:21

Bright further mathematician types will have to spend less time on standard maths outside of lessons, but that's why further maths is allowed as a 4th subject.
Your normal, non-further mathematician should be able to find stuff to do outside of lessons - even for good ones getting an A* won't be something that they can do with no study. I've seen further mathematicians only get an A in maths because they underestimated C3 and C4.
Students in Y12 who are finding that they don't need to work on their maths yet need to appreciate that they are being led in gently with the easiest stuff and that this probably won't last so they need to be prepared for that.

catslife Sun 12-Nov-17 14:36:00

Agree with graphene with the recommendation for Chemguide. The only disadvantage is that it's not syllabus specific but the main advantage is that it is accurate.
At this stage in the course, he may be finding the course straightforward if he took the Triple Science option or iGCSE. If this is the case most of the work will look familiar but more depth is needed for A level so he needs to make sure that he practices questions that incorporate the new A level aspects. Students who have taken Double award may have to work more hours at this point in Y12 than those with the Triple.

Uninspirednamewise Sun 12-Nov-17 17:17:55

Thank you all very much for very helpful advice.

catslife that's an interesting comment about the chemistry course being straightforward at this stage for those who did triple science at GCSE. DS did do triple science (and got A*s). Triple science is an option at GCSE at DS's school and students who did double science can still take chemistry A-level if they got at least A at GCSE, so the chemistry class may consist of a mix of those who have done double science and those who have done triple.

DS got grade 8 for maths GCSE, so a decent starting point for A level, but obviously not the highest possible grade. He is not doing further maths at A level. (His third A level is not a science one, and as it's a subject I took for A level myself I have a much better idea of what he should be doing there.)

He has had one maths test on which he didn't do that well, but that was true of over half the class, so it's difficult to know how much to read into that. I gather he has another maths test coming up imminently, so I'll await the result of that one with interest!

noblegiraffe Sun 12-Nov-17 17:39:05

He should absolutely not care that over half the class didn't do well in the maths test, he should care that he didn't do well. What has he done since that test in order to address his weaknesses in the areas that led to the poor result? There isn't any teaching time to go back and reteach those areas, so he needs to sort it out in his own time (there may be clinics at lunchtime that he could attend?)

It's that sort of thing that Y12s don't realise that they should be doing that means that they won't get as good results in the end.

Uninspirednamewise Sun 12-Nov-17 21:20:54

noblegiraffe the test DS had trouble with was on proofs. I asked DS afterwards whether he understood how to do the test questions now. He said the teacher had been through the test in class and DS now understood the answers to the test questions, but that wouldn't necessarily mean he would know how to do other proofs. As I only took maths to O level (and the fact that it was O level, not GCSE tells you it was quite a few years ago!) I don't know whether DS's comment about the proofs should be ringing alarm bells or not.

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