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Mathematics GCSE

19 posts in this topic

What do you think of the mathematics GCSE? Is it too easy, too difficult, right or wrong choice of topics, etc?

 

Mathematics was the first main GCSE subject to abolish coursework and become all examination. Do you think that this was a good or a bad move?

 

The current GCSE consists of two papers - one where a calculator is required and one where a calculator is prohibited. Is this a good idea or not?

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Surely that depends on what you think the purpose of Maths GCSE is?

 

The problem is the Government has a target of ensuring that every 16 year old gets to the level of C in GCSE Maths - or to put it another way has the target of reducing the standards of GCSE Maths so that every 16 year old is capable of getting a C.

 

I started looking at the syllabus a few weeks ago in the context of my son (Yr7) and think the basic GCSE very lacking in content, but there is an "Additional Maths" that may be better.

 

As for calculators - yes I think the idea of allowing them in one exam and not in the other is sensible. You need to test the pupils' ability to do basic calculations in situations where calculators are available (most real world situations) but also test their ability to do mental arithmetic as necessary

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I have recently compared the mathematics GCSE and IGCSE courses.

The similarities are:

1. They are both Level 2 qualifications.
2. They are both all examination with no coursework.
3. They both have two exam papers.

The differences are:

1. A calculator is allowed for both of the IGCSE exam papers but it is only allowed for one of the GCSE exam papers.
2. The IGCSE course contains certain advanced topics not included in the GCSE course such as set theory, matrices, and more advanced geometry.
3. A higher proportion of the marks appear to come from arithmetic type questions in the GCSE course than the IGCSE course.

It is probably easier for students to achieve a particular grade with the GCSE course than it is to achieve an identical grade with the IGCSE course – although this will also depend on individual students and for some the reverse could be true.

My cynical view is that ever since the GCSE replaced the CSE and the O Level a conflict of interest has emerged between being sufficiently academically rigorous at higher level and providing the breadth and depth of advanced topics to prepare students for the mathematics A Level and other mathematical courses in further education, and to ensure the mastery of basic arithmetic and numeracy for everyday life and (less technical) employment. This could explain why calculators are prohibited for one of the GCSE exam papers and a higher proportion of the marks appear to come from arithmetic type questions. The second point of interest is probably less of an issue for many students taking the IGCSE which is why the course contains more 'real maths' and less arithmetic.

A manager stated that mathematics was a subject that benefited from having a separate CSE and O Level with different topics. The O Level was designed around 'real maths' like algebra, trigonometry, and geometry whilst the CSE mostly focused on 'everyday maths' like arithmetic and money calculations. The managed believed that every student, regardless of ability, should have taken the CSE and higher ability students also taken the O Level. That way it would be easy for employers to determine how good applicants were in basic arithmetic and numeracy irrespective of their ability, or lack of it, in more advanced topics. A CSE grade 2 is equal to a GCSE grade D but the CSE always held more respect amongst employers than the GCSE because it was a qualification in its own right whereas a lower grade GCSE looks poor in comparison. A CSE grade 1 was a reliable indicator to an employer that an applicant was proficient at basic arithmetic and numeracy, although they may lack knowledge of the more advanced topics found in the O Level. The equivalent GCSE grade C is ambiguous and therefore almost meaningless. Did the student take the foundation or the higher level GCSE because they are technically different courses? If the student took the foundation level then it's probably safe to say that they are proficient when it comes to 'everyday maths'. If the student took the higher level then are they weak at 'everyday maths', 'real maths', or a bit of both. It's impossible to tell.

Would it be a good idea to bring back the mathematics CSE and replace the GCSE by the IGCSE? The government target will then be moved from a GCSE grade C to a CSE grade 1 and the IGCSE will be an optional subject for high ability students? I personally see it as a win-win situation.

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IGCSE and GCSE are very different beasts. Many of the best schools in the country now do IGCSE (only) because they think GCSE does not stretch pupils enough.

 

Certainly looking at the syllabus for GCSE it contains much less than I did at O Level (showing my age :) ). My (autistic) son took a GCSE mock in Yr 5 and achieved a grade C - on nothing more than primary level maths.

Realistically we do need a qualification that shows that someone has the basics of arithmetic (I won't flatter it with the name Maths) that covers basic sums, fractions, percentages, area, charts - which as I understand it is all there is in basic maths these days. But doing that is not an adequate basis for A Level Maths - or indeed any numerate discipline at A Level and above (science and engineering) so there is also a clear need for a more advanced qualification at GCSE level for those who need it. There is a further maths GCSE that looks closer to what we did at O Level (e.g. geometry/circle theorems, differentiation and so on).

 

I have just looked up the syllabus for IGCSE maths (and further maths) and that looks pretty similar to what we did for the equivalent O levels - certainly a much better course than the equivalent GCSE.

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I forgot to include the 4th difference between the GCSE and IGCSE courses…

4. The GCSE papers contain a list of formulae on the first page but it is not included on the IGCSE papers.

I have had a good look at both the higher level GCSE and IGCSE exam papers and I think it's unjustified to say that they are VERY different beasts. The IGCSE papers are nothing like the O Level papers from the 1960s. They are about 80% the same as the GCSE papers in terms of content although the style of the IGCSE questions tends to be more of a “factorise this equation” type whereas the style of the GCSE questions tends to involve more 'real world' situations.

The reason why most independent schools adopted the IGCSE was because it was all examination rather than because it was academically more rigorous than the GCSE. There was much dissatisfaction with the coursework component in the GCSE and the complications it caused for students taking the exam in Y9 or Y10. Some independent schools that adopted the IGCSE reverted to the GCSE after coursework was abolished and it became all examination.

A discussion concluded that improving the standard of mathematical ability of students is ambiguous as it conflates two completely different issues:

1. Improving the prowess of higher ability students in 'real maths' topics by ensuring that the higher level course is sufficiently rigorous and contains topics of a breadth and depth to prepare students for the mathematics A Level and other mathematical courses in further education, and is also of a comparable standard to the higher level course taken by students in foreign countries.

2. Improving the prowess of all students in 'everyday maths' by ensuring that they are proficient in basic arithmetic and numeracy. This is mostly KS2 material.

Initiatives to raise standards in (1) will not raise standards in (2) or vice versa.

The only possible way to determine the ability of students in both (1) and (2) is to have two separate exams with two separate grades. Combining (1) and (2) into the same subject or exam makes it impossible to determine weaknesses in either (1), (2), or both from the grade alone.

The Government initiative of ensuring that every 16 year old achieves a GCSE grade C usually manifests in practice as a grade C in the foundation level GCSE. The foundation level GCSE is mostly arithmetic and 'everyday maths' although there is a bit of algebra and geometry. A student who achieves a grade C in the higher level GCSE will have knowledge of advanced topics not included in the foundation level but may be weak at basic arithmetic and numeracy whilst showing strengths in algebra or trigonometry. Therefore the Government's target grade paradoxically results in GCSE holders who's mathematical abilities are invariable and indeterminate.

Possible complications with having separate exams and separate qualifications for the 'everyday maths' and the 'real maths' include:

1. The alleged 'cruelty' of subjecting students to too many exams, although people who hold this view seem to forget that students who took O Levels in the 1980s usually only studied 8 subjects whereas it is quite common for students today to take 12 GCSE subjects.

2. Whether high ability students should take the 'everyday maths' exam before Y11 – possibly even in Y8 – or whether it should be deferred until the end of Y11.

3. Should mathematics – in one form or another – be a compulsory subject to the end of Y11? If opportunities to take the 'everyday maths' exam before Y11 are commonplace then some students will be happy with it and have no wish to study 'real maths' to (I)GCSE level.

IMO the additional mathematics GCSE is a controversial subject. It is a slimmed down AS Level with the same topics but it is only a GCSE and quite an obscure subject that doesn't appear to be particularly valued by employers or further education. An AS level has public recognition and is worth a lot more than an additional mathematics GCSE is. There is also a statistics GCSE but this appears to function better as a standalone subject than the additional mathematics GCSE does.

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I had a quick look at syllabuses for iGCSE(Cambridge) and GCSE(AQA) and the IGCSE seems well beyond the GCSE. Includes topics like integration, set theory and the like. I thought I had seen one that included more probability too but can't see that now. I'm afraid I don't have personal experience of O Levels in the 60s,When I did mine in the late 70s the syllabus looked very similar - although the style of the questions now seem much easier / more accessible than the ones I remember

 

I looked at an AQA Further Maths GCSE paper and a Cambridge Further Maths iGCSE. The former I am pretty confident I could rattle off very quickly and get them all right (other than silly slips) the second I would have found much more taxing - predominately because it assumes you have memoriised more formulae that I am sure I knew 30 years ago but can't call to mind now.

 

it seems to me we really need three forms of maths

a) Basic numeracy - the sort of maths everyone needs for day-to-day life. Arithmetic, Mensuration,Fractions, Percentages - this is probably what the Foundation GCSE is aimed at

B) Maths - probably roughly equivalent to current GCSE - appropriate to most school pupils

c) More Maths (Further/Additional) aimed at people who need it to support their further study.

 

I see further maths primarily as an enabling course - covering aspects such as Calculus that will be needed for e.g. Maths or Physics A level. I can understand that employers may not value it particularly because you would expect almost anyone who needs it to have a further qualification that supersedes it - but you could see universities for example not accepting someone on a physics degree who didn't have further maths.

 

I have never really understood the purpose of AS Levels - they have always seemed to me rather like O Levels taken a year later and put in to compensate for the dumbing down of the GCSE (now there is another controversial topic). But on the Maths side I would not say that taking the Further maths syllabus as an AS level would really be a sufficient introduction to A Level maths because it detracts from what you can cover in the A Level syllabus.

 

Even when I was at school it was the norm to do the Ordinary Maths O level in the 4th Form to allow Further maths to be taken in the 5th Form and that is a pattern that still seems common (I expect my ASD son to take GCSE in Yr 10 at the latest, maybe even Yr 9) You could argue that the Numeracy part of the Maths should routinely be taken around Yr 7 or 8 for able pupils to get it out of the way and allow them to move on earlier to more exciting work. Both my sons (one ASD one NT) find their respective maths very boring because it is so easy!

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I had a quick look at syllabuses for iGCSE(Cambridge) and GCSE(AQA) and the IGCSE seems well beyond the GCSE. Includes topics like integration, set theory and the like.

 

Is it the Mathematics (9-1) (England only) (0626) that you are referring to? This course contains differentiation but not integration. I was looking at Mathematics (0580) that does not contain any calculus.

 

I looked at an AQA Further Maths GCSE paper and a Cambridge Further Maths iGCSE. The former I am pretty confident I could rattle off very quickly and get them all right (other than silly slips) the second I would have found much more taxing - predominately because it assumes you have memoriised more formulae that I am sure I knew 30 years ago but can't call to mind now.

There isn't a further mathematics GCSE from AQA. It is the AQA Certificate Level 2 Further Mathematics (8360). The Cambridge IGCSE is Mathematics - Additional (0606). Of the two the IGCSE appears to be more advanced and includes several A Level topics whereas the AQA Certificate Level 2 appears to be based around O Level material that was omitted from the higher level GCSE.

 

There is probably much truth that any level 2 qualifications in further or additional mathematics are enabling courses for A Levels and further education courses in mathematics, physics, and other mathematical subjects rather than qualifications for employers. Some independent schools would not allow students to take further mathematics at A Level unless they already had an additional mathematics GCSE or a mathematics AS Level because it meant that they didn't have to spend time teaching these topics at A Level which would free up time to teach further mathematics A Level topics.

 

One advantage with AS Levels is that they carry UCAS points whereas level 2 qualifications do not. The result is that if students DO NOT take mathematics to A Level then they will have some UCAS points resulting from the AS Level. If they take mathematics to A Level then only the highest scoring qualification will count. In the late 1990s some independent schools replaced their additional mathematics GCSE with a mathematics AS Level because of this. It was noteworthy that the AS Level had got easier and the P1 paper wasn't much harder than the additional mathematics GCSE and much of the M1 paper was covered by the physics GCSE.

 

As I have previously stated, much of the conflict within the GCSE course are between basic arithmetic and numeracy vs traditional continuous mathematics like algebra, trigonometry, and geometry. The level 2 qualifications in further or additional mathematics continue with continuous mathematics topics. I think that there should be more consideration for including topics in discrete mathematics into the course. Discrete mathematics is already included at A Level in the form of the D1 and D2 papers. Some of the topics can be successfully taught to higher ability KS2 students as they do not require any prior knowledge in KS3 or KS4 topics.

 

Experience has revealed that discrete mathematics is not without its opponents including: teachers who have no knowledge of the topics; parents and employers who are only interested in basic arithmetic and numeracy; the education traditionalists who want to restore the curriculum to that of the O Level in the 1950s; and worst of all, middle age people who were burnt by the SMP modern mathematics course of the 1960s and 70s who fear that it is reviving this nightmare of a course by stealth.

 

The recent introduction of the computer science GCSE adds a new dimension into the overall picture as it includes some discrete mathematics and computational mathematics, so measures need to be taken that introducing discrete mathematics into the mathematics GCSE does not result in a large overlap in topics between the two courses.

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Just shows how complicated the whole thing is - and how confusing the qualifications have become, seems we now have basic foundation maths GCSE, additional foundation maths GCSE, higher maths GCSE, additional/further maths GCSE (not sure if that still exists), IGCSE Maths, IGCSE further maths, Level 2 further maths, AS Maths, AS Further Maths, A Level maths, A Level further maths.

 

And that is before you get on to Statistics and the other variants

 

My comments on the syllabus related to the Additional/Further maths level - so Cambridge 0606 and AQA was indeed the Level 2 certificate. I would have imagined the "Level 2 Certificate" was superior to the iGCSE but that was clearly not the case - adding further to the confusion.

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It is a very confusing mess at the moment as the old style GCSEs are being taught in parallel with the new reformed GCSEs.

WJEC / CBAC now offers two mathematics GCSEs with A* to G grades that will only be available in Wales, and conversely, mathematics GCSEs from other exam boards will no longer be available in state schools in Wales. The first is a conventional mathematics GCSE and the second called mathematics – numeracy will focus on numeracy and the mathematics needed for everyday life with a small amount of algebra and geometry thrown in. Most students in Wales will take both GCSEs.

I have some concerns with the mathematics – numeracy course in that although it somewhat approximates what the CSE was and my concept for a separate exam and qualification for 'everyday maths' there is considerable overlap with the mathematics course and it is graded up to A*. Therefore a potential for deceiving employers (outside of Wales?) exists for students who score well on mathematics – numeracy but badly on mathematics that they are good at 'real maths' when they are only good at 'everyday maths'. The mathematics course is also available at foundation and intermediate level, as well as higher level which is a very questionable facility in the presence of mathematics – numeracy. It would be more sensible if mathematics – numeracy was not a GCSE but another Level 1 qualification and therefore graded differently, and the mathematics GCSE was only available to higher level in Wales.

A GCSE in further mathematics is offered by CCEA in Northern Ireland but it is not available in England. It consists of two exam papers – the first for pure and the second for mechanics and statistics – so it is the closest of the further / additional mathematics course to the AS Level. The exam papers also appear to be tougher than those from the AQA Certificate Level 2 Further Mathematics.

The CCEA mathematics GCSE is the only one that is unitised now that those for England, and shortly Wales, are linear.

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There must be someone who thinks this mess is a good idea but I can't understand their thinking.

 

It certainly seems that to have a GCSE in Maths gives no guarantee of knowing much more than your 2 times table - but from the employers point of view I am not sure that matters. There is not much in any of the GCSE syllabuses that will be of relevance to most people's jobs - after all when was the last time you needed to evaluate a definite integral as part of your day to day job :)

 

I would suspect any employer looking for more than basic numeracy would need to look for a higher qualification than GCSE, or look in more detail at the topics covered.

 

Perhaps what we need is a basic school leavers certificate the covers basic numeracy and literacy and return the Maths course to something vaguely resembling proper Maths

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There must be someone who thinks this mess is a good idea but I can't understand their thinking.

Michael Gove aka Meddling Mike. Hopefully things will have settled down next year when only the new reformed GCSE courses will be taught and the older GCSE courses have been discontinued by the exam boards. There will only be 6 GCSE exams in mathematics - one from each exam board apart from WJEC / Eduqas which will offer different exams for England and Wales. Currently AQA, Edexcel, OCR, and WJEC / Eduqas offer two older GCSE courses - one linear with 2 exam papers and another that was once unitised with 3 exam papers.

 

Perhaps what we need is a basic school leavers certificate the covers basic numeracy and literacy and return the Maths course to something vaguely resembling proper Maths

Has combining the CSE and O Level into a GCSE created a bad compromise in mathematics between the 'everyday maths' and the 'real maths' where one size to fit both ends up as one size which fails both, and it makes it difficult to determine a student's abilities from the grade alone?

 

If a new CSE / Level 1 qualification covering 'everyday maths' is created then in the longer run consideration can be given for discontinuing the foundation level GCSE mathematics.

 

Would the value of the GCSE be increased if it included more 'real maths' topics that are not included in the IGCSE such as discrete that I have previously mentioned?

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In some ways I have a lot of respect for Michael Gove and his changes. He seems to be the first politician for a generation who has been prepared to acknowledge the mess our exam system has got into (largely through the interference of successive governments).

 

It is clear to anyone who takes any form of interest that the whole GCSE system was not fit for purpose. We are discussing some of the nonsense in the Maths on this thread - and the example of English GCSE that arose a year or two back showed that that qualification was basically meaningless.

 

I think radical change was essential and Gove has come up with radical changes - whether they are the right ones or not is a different matter.

 

I think the real problem with the changes to Maths GCSE in particular is making C grade the target for (almost) everyone. As soon as you set C at a level where everyone could pass then the bands get so wide as to be almost meaningless. I think when I did O Levels a CSE 1 was equivalent to a GCE 'C' and there were 4 more "pass" grades below that. It may be the new grading helps to sort that out

 

If as your post suiggests the additional/further maths is being abolished I see that as a backward step. A course that is appropriate for basic numeracy is really not going to be an appropriate foundation for a student who might be studying Maths or Physics at university. That all implies that we are dumbing down GCSE which has to have a knock on impact to A Level and degree.

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I have mixed feelings when it comes to Michael Gove. I give him credit for introducing the computer science GCSE, which should have been around decades ago, and abolishing the ICT GCSE that was the butt of many jokes. It's difficult to deny that the GCSE system was not fit for purpose and in need of a serious overhaul but time will tell how effective Michael Gove's reforms are. The reforms fix a number of problems but they could introduce new problems. One particular issue are conflicts between the reformed GCSEs that use number grades and IGCSEs and GCSEs in Wales and Northern Ireland that continue to use the old letter grades. This is cynical but it appears as if today's Conservatives are undoing the reforms to qualifications implemented by Thatcher's Conservatives.

All roads seem to lead to that target C grade. I am wondering whether the variation of abilities between individual students who hold a C grade are more acute with mathematics than with most other subjects. Whether the new number grades sorts this out remains to be seen but there is still the same pulling and tugging conflict between the 'real maths' and the 'everyday maths' in the reformed GCSE course as there was in the older course.

I was discussing the issue with a parent as the AS support group who achieved a B grade GCSE in 1990. At the time a B grade required the higher level papers as the foundation level papers only went up to a C grade. He was thoroughly disgusted to find out that it is now possible to achieve a B grade on the foundation level papers that are only one step ahead of KS2 material whereas he had to answer questions on vectors, functions, 3D trigonometry, Euclidean geometry, and plenty of algebra such as quadratic and simultaneous equations. He thinks that making a B grade available from the foundation level papers was a serious mistake and a kick in the teeth for holders of a B grade when it was only available to students who took the higher level papers.

Every exam board offers a Level 2 qualification in additional / further mathematics in one form or another:

AQA Certificate Level 2 Further Mathematics (8360)

Cambridge IGCSE Mathematics – Additional (0606)

CCEA GCSE Further Mathematics (2335) (Northern Ireland only)

 

Edexcel IGCSE Further Pure Mathematics (4PM0)

OCR FSMQ Advanced Level Additional Mathematics (6993)

WJEC / Eduqas Level 2 Certificate Additional Mathematics (9550) (Wales only)

I don't think that any of these courses are within the wrath of Ofsted and the DfE which means that they don't officially exist as far as the government is concerned so they are not officially part of the framework and hierarchy of qualifications. It is debatable what the true purpose of Level 2 additional / further mathematics is which probably explains why all but the CCEA course are not GCSEs so Ofsted / DfE doesn't have to participate in this debate. There are significant differences between the courses in terms of content and academic rigour. Rather ironically, the most demanding course is a GCSE. One suggestion that has been put forward is for future Level 2 additional / further mathematics courses to cover the mathematical topics beyond GCSE found in A Level chemistry, geography, electronics, computer science, and economics as well as being an enabling course for A Levels and further education courses in mathematics and physics. The course will then contain topics ranging from differential equations to 3D geometry to rank correlation.

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One of the advantages with the iGCSE is that they are comparatively free from political interference and are widely available and understood. Many of the schools we are considering for DS2 (NT) are independent who prefer the IGCSE - but also seem to include some GCSEs - it will be interesting to see what happens there. I am not sure that IGCSEs will follow GCSE over to the 1-9 marking scheme but if not it will make it even more confusing.

 

There has certainly be a massive problem with governments pushing attainment in terms of grades with rampant grade inflation happening over the years. This allows them to say that the education system is getting better and better as the results keep getting better, as a result people who would have got a C when I sat A Levels would now get an A. To my mind that totally undermines the point of A Levels - if all the best students get straight As then they aren't much use as an indicator of ability.

 

What you are saying about being able to get a B through foundation only fits with that - clear dumbing down to the extent that it would appear even getting an A is not evidence of having a good grasp of maths (particularly when you factor in the different exam bodies). However I do think Gove has realised there is a serious issue and is beginning to move in the right direction. Cue 10 more years of chaos until another left wing government gets in and decides to give everyone one 5 As at GCSE just for turning up

 

Looking through the AQA qualifications (that my mathematically-gifted ASD son will do) I see they do 4 different GCSEs. plus statistics - that now includes a "double maths" option. I suppose that is not dissimilar to the Science where you can get one, two or three GCSEs depending what course you follow.

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One of the advantages with the iGCSE is that they are comparatively free from political interference and are widely available and understood.

 

True. It's possible that in 10 years time GCSEs will only be available in NC subjects approved by the DfE and other subjects will either be an IGCSE or another Level 2 qualification. The increase in availability of IGCSEs has cast a long dark shadow over GCSEs that governments cannot afford to ignore when implementing future exam reforms.

 

Many of the schools we are considering for DS2 (NT) are independent who prefer the IGCSE - but also seem to include some GCSEs - it will be interesting to see what happens there. I am not sure that IGCSEs will follow GCSE over to the 1-9 marking scheme but if not it will make it even more confusing.

Independent schools offer a mixture of GCSEs and IGCSEs depending on which course they think is better. Some subjects are only available as a GCSE and not an IGCSE and vice versa.

 

I was informed by a fairly reliable source that Asian Muslim parents prefer GCSEs to IGCSEs. They think that GCSEs are better because they are British whereas IGCSEs are international. IGCSEs are used in Pakistan and other Commonwealth countries. The result is that most independent Muslim schools in England have chosen to offer GCSEs but not IGCSEs. The person who informed me is not happy about this and feels that parents have fallen into a perception trap without understanding the exams. Asian Muslims are a group which is prone to struggling with coursework, although it has been abolished in many subjects in recent years and grades have improved as a result. This is something the educational progressives and the social liberals fail to realise as they strongly believe that GCSEs with coursework benefit ALL students from 'deprived' or 'disadvantaged' backgrounds over all examination courses. They also don't factor in the education system and the exams that students of foreign origin take back in their country of origin. It makes me wonder whether dumbed down GCSEs with coursework really are just a whim of the chattering class with a socially liberal stance who lack understanding of what goes on in the world.

 

Looking through the AQA qualifications (that my mathematically-gifted ASD son will do) I see they do 4 different GCSEs. plus statistics - that now includes a "double maths" option. I suppose that is not dissimilar to the Science where you can get one, two or three GCSEs depending what course you follow.

The AQA courses are:

 

GCSE Mathematics (8300) – The latest course following the GCSE reforms. First exams 2017.

 

GCSE Mathematics (4360) – The old unitised course with 3 exam papers.

 

GCSE Mathematics (Linear) B (4365) – The old traditional course with 2 exam papers.

 

GCSE Statistics (4310)

 

The 'double maths' option you mention is the GCSE Linked Pair: Methods in Mathematics (9365) Applications of Mathematics (9370). It is an oddball highly unitised course and is not the equivalent of the double science GCSE. It will be discontinued along with 4360 and 4365.

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I had a conversation with the Maths teacher at Cruckton a couple of years ago and she was talking about them piloting a double maths GCSE and I assumed the AQA one was that - but a bit of googling (other search engines are available) shows that that is not the case - I guess that idea has now been dropped in the light of the new 1-9 GCSE.

 

Looking at the new format GCSE it does seem a lot bigger than the previous version, as well as having 4 grades that can only be achieved from the Higher tier. That is already a great improvement over the old ones and seems to be returning closer to the O Level /' CSE split of my school days. However the corollary of that is that making it harder means that you are having to do much more work to get your 9 than you would for many of the easier subjects which might further put people off the subject. That is one reason I like the idea of the double Maths - give people recognition for the amount of work they aredoing.

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Have the two GCSEs in mathematics for Wales as described above been influenced or inspired by the linked pair GCSEs or is it an independent development?

 

I'm dubious about making mathematics a dual GCSE on account of the amount of material in the course or its (alleged) difficulty as it's already a highly valued and respected GCSE anyway. I'm even more dubious about giving an A* grade for what is just arithmetic and 'everyday maths' as in the case of the GCSE mathematics - numeracy for Wales. There are no plans to make the IGCSE a dual subject, despite it containing 'real maths' topics not in the GCSE, and it would be badly devalued if the GCSE was made a dual subject.

 

I don't know much about the linked pair GCSEs (were they very rare) but I have found out that some students with AS prefer the unitised course (all papers taken at the same time) over the traditional course because it separates out different topics onto different exam papers whereas the traditional course combines different topics onto the same exam paper. Several schools for kids with SEN have adopted the unitised course as a result. O Level exams from the 1950s had 3 papers – one for arithmetic, one for algebra, and one for geometry – which has been used as an argument that a unitised course is not a dumbed down course.

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Why not make Maths a double GCSE? Science has up to 3, English 2, MFL any number. You can argue that along with English, Maths is the most important qualfication for the modern workplace and yet it only gets one, pretty basic GCSE. We really need to start aiming our qualifications for the more able rather than the least. The more I think about it the more sense it seems to be to return to the Maths/Additional Maths courses we had. That sets one exam with a syllabus where it is reasonable to expect the majority of the population to get a reasonable grade, and another at a level more appropriate for people wanting to study numerate subjects. I would certainly like to see a lot more statistics covered at GCSE level given how many stats we are bombarded with on a daily basis and how little most people seem to understand them.

 

Your comments about the unitised exams are interesting - you could say that that encourages/enforces ability in all of the syllabus. I am sure in the O Levels I did you could have got an A based on little more than half the syllabus as there was enough choice on the "B" questions that you could avoid those on areas you don't know.

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Bear in mind that the double / triple science GCSE is a result of the legacy of having three separate science O Levels in biology, chemistry, and physics which also continued as separate subjects into the GCSE era. It would have been unjust to have replaced them by a single GCSE in science except one for the low ability students. There was resentment for many years with double science counting only as two GCSEs when it had replaced three O Levels which is why triple science was created. The double English GCSE results in two separate GCSEs (on the exam certificate) for English language and English literature.

 

The statistics GCSE should definitely be more widely available even for students of average mathematical ability and available as a GCSE option in state secondary schools for all. Level 2 additional / further mathematics qualifications need to be evaluated, and a future strategy for the subject and where it fits into the grand scheme of things created. Already there are six courses available, in what is quite a marginal subject in terms of numbers taking it, that differ considerably between them. An IGCSE will probably provide the highest level of recognition in the subject but a Level 2 certificate will be the easiest to tailor to the mathematical requirements of all A Levels unless an Ofsted / DfE controlled GCSE is created.

 

You make a valid point about the optional questions in the O Level exam papers where students could avoid studying calculus, Euclidean geometry, matrices etc. whereas all the questions in both the linear and unitised GCSE courses are compulsory.

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