Mathematical Miscellany #18

crashMATHS has some very useful free resources for GCSE and A Level; the site is under development but you will find plenty of useful resources already. Checking for some additional resources on Completing the square for my Year 10 students I came across a GCSE worksheet from crashMaths; this has a good variety of questions including questions to stretch your students aiming at the highest grades. The worksheet solutions are noted as coming soon. For a topic such as completing the square, this is an ideal time to use technology to check our work. Any of Desmos, GeoGebra and WolframAlpha could be used. (Select for Desmos page.)

Staying with crashMATHS, note the A Level Practice Papers and mark schemes, this looks like a very valuable resource. There are several papers and mark schemes available with more coming. Versions are provided for AQA and Edexcel, these use the style of papers we see from the exam boards. Currently, there is nothing for OCR. For Mathematics the content is the same for all the boards and for Further Mathematics we have a prescribed core which must comprise approximately 50% of its content. This common content as we have with GCSE is very useful indeed as we can use resources from all the examination boards.

Continuing with an A Level theme we have a very interesting read, published 25th January 2018, “An evaluation of the item difficulty in AS and A level maths“. This compares the difficulty of items in sample AS and A level maths assessment materials from 2016 and 2017 with the A Level papers from 2015. The overall objective of the exercise was to compare the profile of item difficulty within the SAMs with that of the corresponding 2015 assessments, a question I believe is on the minds of Maths teachers!

Ofqual: Expected item difficulty Legacy & Reformed Specs

Clearly, we can look at the specimen materials ourselves and make our own judgement on the difficulty but this seems a robust study which used Comparative Judgement. This is a technique where each reviewer reviews many pairs of items and decides each time which item is more difficult to answer.

Items from the sample assessment materials submitted for 4 specifications,  AQA, MEI, OCR and Pearson were used.

The study shows slightly higher levels of expected difficulty for items from the sample assessments relative to the 2015 assessments but the increase in difficulty is small.  The paper states that ‘Such small differences can easily be accommodated by the setting of grade boundaries at awarding. The choice of specifications to teach should be based more on content and style as there is little appreciable difference in difficulty.’

For further reading on Comparative Judgement, look at the work of Daisy Christodoulou.

If you have not yet signed up for the new home of Edexcel’s Maths Emporium then do so! This is such a valuable resource. Latest additions include some great new GCSE maths practice papers. There is a wonderful set of practice papers by topic. Look first at GCSE Mathematics, then choose Cabinet 11 for the current specification. Under Practice Papers you will find the themed set – brilliant!

To finish this collection, from NCETM look at their Secondary Assessment materials which have been written to support teachers in making judgements on the degree to which pupils have mastered various components of the KS3 mathematics curriculum. This follows the primary Mastery Materials, which was published in 2015.

See further posts in the Mathematical Miscellany Series.

By Colleen Young