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Maths mock help please!

(41 Posts)
namechangenumber2 Wed 20-Nov-19 09:14:21

DS1 is in yr 11 and just finished his mocks. He's done pretty well in most of his subjects but we're worried about his Maths results.

He's predicted an 8 next summer, achieved a 5+ in April and a 6 this time round. Is he doing ok? He's my eldest so have no idea if he's still on target.

Our main concern is he's chosen maths heavy A Levels for college - Maths, Further Maths and Physics ( and Geography). I'm wondering if this is a mistake and he's going to take on too much? The further Maths was always going to be taken on with the intention of dropping if necessary.

He's always been seen as an able mathematician , it's very much his thing. However he seems to have hit a brick wall. He's a bit of a lazy learner - does minimal revision etc.

Non of it is helped that he has no idea what he wants to do, so has nothing to aim for. I don't want to over nag at him, he's doing so well in other subjects and I want him to feel proud of himself.

How can we help him with his Maths? Are his results sounding ok? He needs a grade 7 to get into Maths A level? Should we be considering other options?

Any advice would be much appreciated!

OP’s posts: |
TeenPlusTwenties Wed 20-Nov-19 09:45:14

You need @noblegiraffe who I expect will come across this at some time, but may be busy with her own y11 students right now.

My understanding is he really needs an 'easy' 7 to succeed at Maths A level and an 8 to do Further Maths. So I definitely think you should at least consider a plan B.

What I would do is this:

Get him to get his maths papers back.
He should go through every question where he lost marks and work out why he lost them.
- silly mistake through rushing (eg saying 8^2=16 not 64)
- misreading the question
- not understanding the wordy stuff in the question
- not being able to identify the method to be used
- forgetting/misapplying the required method (but he understands it when reminded)
- not understanding the topic
- running out of time so not attempting things he can do
- not been taught it (e.g grade 9 topics)

Once he has seen where he lost marks he should be able to plan a campaign on how to improve. This will almost certainly involve practice questions.

Is it a case of he knows he can do maths really so for the mocks he consciously decided to focus on other subjects? If he could get a 6 with 'no effort' then I would have thought that with some focus in the next 6 months he could get that 8, (but I'm not a teacher).

namechangenumber2 Wed 20-Nov-19 10:11:11

Thanks @TeenPlusTwenties , I think you've hit the nail on the head with your final paragraph. He's always been a natural mathematician so just expects it to happen, and is putting more emphasis on subjects that don't come more naturally.

He says he makes silly mistakes, and a common problem is he often reads a question and over complicates it? So spends time on a question that doesn't really require it. He's also not brilliant at writing down his workings - so we're working on that.

OP’s posts: |
TeenPlusTwenties Wed 20-Nov-19 10:24:43

I was always told off for not writing down my workings, it took until O level to learn to do it.

He must write down workings, as if he makes a silly mistake he can often get some marks for 'method' if he has shown it. Plus any question that says 'show that' or 'explain' is positively asking to see the thinking.

If he is really '8' standard I'd have thought the first half of the paper should seem pretty easy so he needs to know not to makes questions over complicated until the second part.

Sounds like he'll probably be fine provided he does put some focus in. Fingers crossed.

RedskyToNight Wed 20-Nov-19 10:47:32

Interestingly DS's maths teacher said he thought that if a student was capable of getting a 6 in GCSE they probably had the aptitude for A Level Maths (though he'd want a 7/8 for FM) - but regardless of GCSE grade, students need to be prepared to work hard at A Level as it's a real step up and definitely a subject that if you fall behind early on it will be a struggle to catch up.

I think the main thing with maths is to first check understanding of every topic covered. If he thinks he understands everything, then it's just down to practice, practice and more practice.

My DS is working a similar level and his teacher is comfortable that he should be looking at a 7/8 at GCSE. Providing he puts the work in smile

ErrolTheDragon Wed 20-Nov-19 10:56:39

Maths is one of those subjects where doing a lot of past papers can help enormously. It's a bit soon for that though, he won't have covered all the content yet. It sounds to me as though he's naturally 'good at maths', rather than a true 'natural mathematician' - in which case he will have to put work in to get the results he's capable of.

As a bit of an aside, does he have any idea what he might want to do post A levels?

Purpledragon40 Wed 20-Nov-19 10:59:50

I mean as a history teacher I let kids in on a 6 into A levels and I am not fussy about work ethic because SLT wants bums on seats. For maths though I wouldn't consider it unless he is getting an 8 and is willing to put in the work. It is a difficult A level compared to almost all others and if you or him isn't willing to make him work now for GCSE he is picking the wrong set of A Levels.

I don't know how to revise maths but I would assume same as most subjects, do a question, mark your answer, then improve the answer and do it every day for a lot of time.

OhYouBadBadKitten Wed 20-Nov-19 11:04:12

I'd be concerned that if he doesn't love maths enough to work at it now, what makes him think he will love it enough to work at it when that is all he is doing?

SayOohLaLa Wed 20-Nov-19 11:06:09

OP, when you say "we're worried" is that you and DS or you and DH? There doesn't seem to be a lot in your OP about your son's views on his results. How does he feel he did? I'd have been dumbfounded if my mother had suggested getting mock papers back and going through every question to see what went wrong.

TeenPlusTwenties Wed 20-Nov-19 11:07:59

I'd have been dumbfounded if my mother had suggested getting mock papers back and going through every question to see what went wrong.

Is that dumfounded at mum suggesting it, or dumfounded at doing it?

How else is he going to learn what his weak areas are?

namechangenumber2 Wed 20-Nov-19 11:22:43

I'll try and remember every question and answer it if I can!

He's disappointed with it, as are we. However I feel like he's giving up sad. He's always found Maths so easy, that I think he's hit a bit of a stumbling block and its scared him and he's lost his confidence.

I don't know whether he loves Maths? It's just always been his strength, so he's always planned to do it at A Level. School have always spoken so highly of him, saying they'd be expecting him to do it at A Level . I just feel a little shocked that we've got here and suddenly he seems to be struggling.

He's already been through a few sets of practice papers but I'll try and get some more. I've also ordered a exam practice book.

I'm also worrying about his confidence over this. He's doing so well - predicted grades 6-8 next summer and already at predicted grades in most subjects - so I don't want him to feel he's failed, because he definitely hasn't! I just want to support him so he gets the best he can.

OP’s posts: |
RedskyToNight Wed 20-Nov-19 11:27:00

This site offers "5 a day" GCSE questions

This site is also good if he wants to revise a particular topic

DS's school also uses Pixl Maths for sample questions, but I think that might be via school subscription.

namechangenumber2 Wed 20-Nov-19 11:30:48

Ooh great thanks for those @RedskyToNight !

OP’s posts: |
ShanghaiDiva Wed 20-Nov-19 11:32:24

Agree with pp that past papers are the key to success. Ds used a website where you could access papers according to topics eg all question on vectors or all questions on indices/surds - this really helps to address any weaknesses and similar questions come up again and again.
Also look at where he is losing marks - not showing working/ careless errors? My ds was a champion at missing out negative signs and messing up entire questions! He did eventually get the message about checking his work for careless mistakes!

namechangenumber2 Wed 20-Nov-19 11:35:57

@ShanghaiDiva - do you know the name of the website for the practice papers please?

I think based on what DS says, it's mainly careless errors and failing to write down his workings. His ability is definitely there as he tends to get the harder questions right. It's the simpler stuff he messes up on?!

OP’s posts: |
ShanghaiDiva Wed 20-Nov-19 11:47:06

@namechangenumber2 - will ask ds
ime success in exams is about knowledge and exam technique. I know when ds took his gcses he looked at the examiners' reports (particularly for science subjects) and often found there were marks available for things he knew, but had not realised that was required or he didn't write it down as felt that was obvious!
Your ds sounds like mine - all the hard questions correct, but losing marks due to some dodgy addition and writing a - as a +. He did eventually fix this and went on to take higher level maths for the IB diploma.

ShanghaiDiva Wed 20-Nov-19 11:49:02

@namechangenumber2 -
I think this is for IGCSE - we live overseas, but it should help with the practice of key topics.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 20-Nov-19 13:29:05

* it's mainly careless errors and failing to write down his workings. His ability is definitely there as he tends to get the harder questions right. It's the simpler stuff he messes up on?!*

My DD was like that, she did a lot of practice papers closer to the exams.
I'm pretty sure it's not unusual for kids like this to significantly improve their grades from what they're getting at this point in the year, both for gcse and A levels.

Re silly mistakes, obviously 'show your working' mitigates against losing all the marks. Some types of question it's possible to quickly assess whether the answer seems ballpark reasonable in terms of sign or order of magnitude.

Pythonesque Wed 20-Nov-19 13:36:17

If it would encourage your son, being able to do maths well without writing down much working is to my mind a good marker of someone with good mathematical ability. Writing down your working efficiently and effectively is an important skill you need to learn in order to take that mathematical ability to the next level. It can also be used as part of your strategy to eliminate silly mistakes.

Both my children have had to focus on these skills in order to do well in maths (eldest just started A level, younger one yr 10 and I've already had words about sciences … exam technique will be key there, not understanding the work). Find work he can practice, and insist he aims for 100% on that work - talk through with him, what went wrong, where did that mistake come from. Learning the skills of getting easier material completely correct quickly and efficiently should make a big difference for him, and will be important preparation for A level work.

Hope you can get it sorted out. To be honest I would be questioning the school as to how this situation has been allowed to get so bad, though.

OhYouBadBadKitten Wed 20-Nov-19 14:01:14

If he would like lots of questions around individual maths topics then the Dr Frost Full coverage papers are pretty good.

TeenPlusTwenties Wed 20-Nov-19 15:28:39

I don't think the situation is 'so bad', nor do I see any evidence that this is any more than a DS who is lazy in revision and lazy in writing down method in exam. Sounds like it could be quite easily rectified to me?

impossibletoday Wed 20-Nov-19 15:56:50

Piggywaspushed Wed 20-Nov-19 17:10:42

Do you think OP that you DS has chosen his A Levels base don subjects he feels he should do? This is sometimes/often an issue with maths, English and the sciences.

Maths often attracts the 'he's always been so good at it' types. But , as for any A Level, it helps if there is a drive, a curiosity and a desire. If he is already doing better in other subjects, might he be better suited to those beyond GCSE?

Nowt wrong with a 6 at GCSE in any subject but if he is getting higher grades in others, I can't help wondering why you wouldn't go with your strongest suits.

noblegiraffe Wed 20-Nov-19 18:20:14


My gut feeling is that a student who get got a 5+ in Y10 and a 6 in Y11 mocks isn’t a natural candidate for Further maths. The Y10 result suggests the Y11 one wasn’t a bad day.

The most likely progression from mocks to the real thing IME is to go up a grade. Some students stay on the same grade. Some (rarely) go up 2 grades, with considerable effort, the ones I know who’ve done it have had tutors. (That’s assuming a totally normal Y11).
Normal progression would put him on a grade 7. Enough for A-level, but probably not heading for the top grades, not enough for Further maths.

I think based on what DS says, it's mainly careless errors and failing to write down his workings. His ability is definitely there as he tends to get the harder questions right

I don’t think this can be true. A grade 6 on Edexcel last year would have been between 45% and 57%. That’s a significant amount of careless errors. Not writing your working isn’t penalised unless you get the wrong answer, unless the question specifically asks for your reasoning. Either he isn’t as good at maths as he previously thought, or he has seriously slacked off on revision and doesn’t know his stuff.

Getting the papers back and looking at them thoroughly will be key. Once he has identified questions that he really should have got but didn’t, he needs to work on those topics.

There have been some good links above - Corbettmaths has got videos on every possible topic as well as the 5 a day questions. these revision booklets are arranged by topic - they tend towards the more difficult, so I would suggest ‘grade 7’ rather than ‘grade 9’!

He needs to know that maths revision isn’t the same as other subjects. No mind maps, writing notes, highlighting. He needs to do lots of questions.

I wouldn’t start with papers right away, I would do topic-focused revision.
Pick a topic
Watch a video/read revision guide and work through examples with guidance
Do some questions on the same topic
Check the answers
If he got any wrong, try to figure out why.
Fix the questions he got wrong
Go back and do some more questions and get them right
Pick a new topic and start again.

They need to do way more questions than they think. Not until they can get them right, but until they can’t get them wrong.

Once he has mastered his weak topics, then he can start doing more general practice.

ProggyMat Wed 20-Nov-19 20:23:02

To quote DD ‘oooh this looks good’!
Thank you for the link.

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