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Posts from 2017-07-12

GCSE 2017 Tier of Entry

Keen to know how your tier of entry decisions affects your GCSE maths outcomes?

Take our survey and we’ll let you know …….. 

We had a great response to our tier of entry survey which meant we could summarise a good-sized set of data and feedback the overall picture to contributors at the end of April. This helped the contributing schools to see if their choices for students were broadly the same as other schools. In some instances, this was not the case and we were able to help these schools see that the decisions they were making were ‘outliers’ when compared to the trend in school decisions for 2017 maths entry. 

Of course, none of us really know what is the best decision because everything is new – content, challenge and pattern of papers.  Apparent outliers may have very good reasons for their different choices. It’s going to be interesting to see how tier for entry choices impact on outcomes for students.

To try to get an early picture of how the new papers and tiers work for different prior learning groups we are following up our survey in late August/early September. We have asked all our contributors to let us know their results by tier and by prior learning group.  We will do a speedy analysis and swift feedback.

It is not too late to take part. Follow this link and complete pages 1 to 4 now, you can pick up the link and complete pages 5 and 6 when you have the results in August.

Intrigue Year 7 with their Experience of Algebra - Part 2

work-image-1Theme 1: Algebraic relationships: generalising from arithmetic. We believe that gaining insight into the algebraic relationships that underpin number will help pupils understand how to construct and transform algebraic expressions and equations.


Arithmagons are one of the early activities – these are problems involving patterns and relationships in numbers. They are a good introduction to writing equations. The number in each small square is the sum of the two numbers in the circles on each side of it.


Pupils find and record possible values of A, B, C and D. Ask: How many solutions can you find? Try to make your record well-organised. Check and discuss with another pair. What do you notice about the links between the values of A, B, C and D? Do they apply to each set of solutions? Record what you notice about these relationships - can you write them as equations? Find as many as you can!

Intrigue Year 7 with their Experience of Algebra - Part 1


How to start algebra? How to get the pupils engaged and enthused? How to find out what they know? How to avoid rules, rules and more rules ...

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Year 7 pupils should see this as a fascinating topic that gives them a real taste for ‘grown up mathematics’, it should intrigue them and captivate them. All too often it does just the opposite; presenting a bewildering array of rules that barely hang together. It is made to seem dull, scary and hard to remember.

With this in mind, the Improve Maths team set out to design a suite of progression units in algebra. We based the approach on rich tasks and problem solving activities that:

  • engage pupils in ‘expressing generality’ and finding ‘as many ways as you can’
  • encourage pupils to explore their thinking in depth, often in pairs or small groups
  • serve varied purposes: precursors, exploration, consolidation and practice, application

In this series of blogs I would like to share with you a flavour for the activities in each of the four themes of progression: 

1: Algebraic relationships: generalising from arithmetic - Through gaining insight into the algebraic relationships that underpin number, pupils understand how to construct and transform algebraic expressions and equations and meet principles and methods that they will use in other themes.

Themes 2, 3 and 4 are ‘algebra with a purpose’, in which pupils come to appreciate the power of algebra to help them generalise, justify and find solutions to problems.

2: Algebraic reasoning: generalising, justifying and proving - UnderÔÇÉrepresented in many schemes of work, the use of algebra to explain, justify and prove results is approached in an accessible way in this theme.

3: Constructing and solving equations - The focus on constructing equations gives a sense of purpose, and insight into algebraic structure. Methods for solving equations are built on the generality of the forms a + b = c and ab = c, explored in theme 1.

4: Deriving and interpreting expressions and formulae - This theme relates algebra to practical contexts from mathematics (e.g. measures) other subjects, everyday life and work.