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# Can any maths teachers give advice how to improve scores on the GCSE maths calculator paper?

(18 Posts)Dd is in year 9 and just did a real paper(Edexcel) in school. Thinks she scored 41%, got 80% on the other paper. She has some SENs, gets extra time and is a bit annoyed with herself. Really wants to up her score, school are pretty good but wondering how we can support her at home.Think she finished it but time was an issue. We have had similar in end of year exams ie other one is fine, calculator not so much. Data handling an issue( potentially not helped by her SEN not sure). I’m not that clued up on GCSE maths but presuming her basic skills are good but applying it quickly maybe an issue, could be wrong. How on earth do you improve your skills in this area? How would those scores pan out in the overall score?

The first question is whether she did foundation or higher tier? I presume foundation which means this is roughly a grade 4.

It is probably the harder topics that are causing issues such as trig. She needs to keep going over those topics.

She will be sitting the higher so not sure which it was. Will find out.Any suggestions on best materials/ways to go over the trickier areas and what they might be?

Is she writing down what she types into the calculator? Some pupils lose marks in the calculator paper because they don't do this. Teachers might refer to this as "you must show your working", to which some pupils then think "but it's calculator, so there's no working to show". For instance, if she types in (5+3sin(45))/(2+3), she should always write it down.

Also, lots of pupils think that being able to use the calculator makes it an "easier" paper: it really doesn't. In some ways, it's harder because numbers are chosen which are difficult to do without a calculator.

Bear in mind also that if it was a "real" paper, it's aimed at those who have finished year 11, so it may contain things she hasn't seen yet.

The website www.corbettmaths.com is very good for practising individual skills: it has lots of worksheets grouped by topic, which increase in difficulty. It's free also (although you can buy revision cards).

Will check, good tip re writing it down. Have drilled it into her but will check she is on this paper. She dropped 3 marks because she changed something when checking which was actually right.🙄She def finds this paper harder and feels it’s harder. They were told it was a hard paper and I’ve told her she’s doing ok for year 9, to build and learn from it but others in her group got as high as 60/70 so they must have covered a fair bit. She scored higher than others in the other one. Unfortunately I suspect the other papers are easier to pull grades up on. Feel sorry for her as her Sens frustrate her, she is a plucky thing though so will get on with it. I’m wondering if fumbling with calculator wasn’t helping and if the laptop that has been offered would but she insists not. It’s the content. I know data and graphs are an issue, maybe there are more of these in it. How do you work on graphs and data handling?Will look at that resource. Will the other paper not pull her score up?😬

Is she definitely using her calculator?

DD2 also y9 had a maths calculator paper test recently.

She worked out a % gain by doing column subtraction to find the gain, and then dividing the original to find 10%, 1% etc to work out the %.

She *knows* how to do it on a calculator...

Both my DDs have problems reading off graphs correctly. They need to be drilled on working out the value of the small squares and not just 'guess'.

I also find that the lack of working out space on maths papers inhibits thinking. Does anyone else find that too?

If, as you say, she’s not good at graphs then she would have done worse on the non-calc paper if the topics had been arranged differently, and the next set of results could be more even.

Topics that come up on the calculator paper in particular are (off the top of my head):

Trig including sine and cosine rule (graphs and exact values can be non-calc)

Percentages with a calculator (drives me nuts when on the calc paper they find 10%, 1% etc) inc compound interest, complicated reverse %

Entering calculations onto a calculator

Problems involving bounds

Estimating means from grouped frequency tables

Iteration

Generally any other topic is fair game for either paper - solving quadratics could be on non-calc with the answer as a surd, circles, spheres could be answer given in terms of pi and so on.

There are two calculator papers and only one non-calc at GCSE (except for Eduqas which has one of each), so if she is not confident with her calculator then she needs to practise using it. You mention SEN - is it a fine motor skills issue?

**@TeenTimesTwo** **I also find that the lack of working out space on maths papers inhibits thinking. Does anyone else find that too?**

This is often a problem when A4 past papers have been photocopied to A5 size to cut costs: there is then much less space than there should be. I drill everyone I teach about using lots of space, writing on any diagrams provided, and starting on the left: many teenagers seem to have a habit of starting their working in the middle of each line, wasting space. Also many pupils draw impossibly tiny diagrams: boys doing A-level maths seem to be the worst for this.

Some worksheets provided by schools have nowhere near enough space to show working, and pupils don't want to use separate paper as they should.

And worst of all are the maths websites which schools often use to set homework where you have to type your answer in, and writing out working doesn't seem to be encouraged at all.

One kind of question loathed by pupils are the long problem-solving ones: e.g. "here is an oddly-shaped floor, which needs polishing. One tin of polish covers 7.8 square metres, and each tin costs £8.99. How much will it cost to polish the floor?" Many pupils struggle with working out *how* to solve this. For this kind of question, I always tell pupils to write *words* in their working, e.g. "Area of floor". This is for their own benefit, because it's surprisingly easy to forget *why* you worked something out.

I also say regularly "mental arithmetic does not get you Brownie points: if it takes you more than five seconds, use a calculator, or paper as appropriate." The ones who are good at mental arithmetic often lose marks because they don't write things down.

Yes it's fine motor- hyper mobility,chronic dyspraxia and sensory. So organisation and processing too. Hand writing in books lovely( neater than both her brothers) as she works hard at it. Exam papers messy though. She does Dr Frost and writes loads down.

Feel so sorry for as there is a good mathematical brain in there. Brothers get effortless 80s,90s and 100s,really gets up her nose.

Yy to all the graph comments and many thanks for the content info. Didn't realise there were two cal papers.😩

Something else I have had to point out to both my DDs (DD1 has dyspraxia too) is that 'estimate from the graph' doesn't mean 'randomly guess'. It means 'read carefully from the graph, accurate to the nearest half square'. That's caught them both out in maths and physics.

Also, draw vertical and horizontal lines from-to the point on the graphs and the scale, don't just 'look'. DD1 couldn't follow the lines of the graph paper well enough not to jump and thus land in the wrong place.

Thanks Teen when she brings the paper back we'll check to make sure she does that.

Interestingly it wasn't graphs.

Seems to be showing a fair bit of workings( not always clear).

Seems to be wading through longer wordy questions is the issue. Lost 10% on one question. Seems to panic,move on,make silly mistakes....I'm guessing the processing and dyspraxia doesn't help.

Basic skills are solid I guess as she got an 8 on non calculator. Lord only knows what you can do to improve wordy problems. Any suggestions would be welcome.

Actually seema to start off ok on the longer wordier ones but loses confidence half way through.

Does she use words on the wordy questions?

It's an uphill struggle with both mine, but it does help if you can get her to.

So not a string of random number calculations.

But instead:

New coat

Increase = …..

Total cost coat = …..

Change from £100 = ……

6 mars bars = 6 x £1.20 = ….

Therefore YES enough money.

Underlining key words and the numbers.

Ticking off the numbers as they get used.

Checking have got to the end before moving on.

All easier said than done. DD2, y9, struggles with this too.

Here is a trick for 'per cent change' questions.

Use the mnemonic CH/OR ('CH' over 'OR'), because doing these kinds of problems is a CHORe.

Many students are not sure which number to 'put on top'. "The original price was £75, the new price is £63. What was the percent change?"

The CHange was £12, the ORiginal price was £75, so it's 12/75, or 0.16. That's 16 hundredths, or 16 per 100, or, to translate it into Latin (and the way they want it, since the ask for the 'per cent', i.e. per 100, change: 16%. [Knowing that 16/100, 0.16, and 16 per cent are all different ways of expressing the same number is also important.]

The price went DOWN so it's a 16% decrease. The hard part is remembering how to do this CH/ORe .... CHange over ORiginal.

Underline key information

Write down calculations

Be really secure in Order of Operations/ Bodmas and when to use brackets and the calculator memory

Estimate answer

Check - repeat calculation, use inverse operation, final digit check

Write answer in format requested, e.g. number of decimal places/ rounding, converted into correct units of measurement...

Does she have enough space to organise her equipment on the desk?

Is she tiring during the exam and needs rest breaks?

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