Chris Seager and Melanie Muldowney are Co-founders of Just Maths and Maths Teachers who have previously worked at the "most improved school in England”. They were also part of the team that won "TES Maths Team of the 2016".
Launched in 2012, Just Maths is an online community and network of resources - born from the passion and spirit of three full-time teachers who have a genuine belief in the power of collaboration and sharing ideas and best practice.
After their recent appearance on The Right Angle podcast, Chris and Mel talk about how to prepare your GCSE Maths students as we approach the first summer exams series in two years.
Choosing the right tier
This time of year brings the hardest decision of GCSE Maths teachers, how to decide on a student's tier of entry? In particular, where do we put our “crossover” students (i.e. those students that potentially could gain a grade 5 but have a chance of getting a 6 on a good day)?
The biggest piece of advice we can give is not to stress about that element of it for as long as you can. If the content the student is studying is right, and they are getting the best educational diet for their aspirations and their targets, they will get the best results, regardless of the tier of entry they will sit.
We still have students studying the crossover scheme of work, who we still have doubts about their tier, but because they are getting the right educational input for their ability, we know they will succeed.
We advise teachers to be flexible, use your intuition, listen to your students and pay attention to their progress. Even if you have to amend their study slightly, it will all fit into place.
Introducing practice papers
We recommend not to wait until the last minute to introduce practice papers into the classroom - build in lots of tactics throughout the year.
All year round, we run the Foundation Paper Challenge, using Pearson practice sets (1), mock sets or specimens - photocopied and ready to go. We challenge students to work through the Foundation paper, trying not to drop a mark early.
Our students are therefore constantly seeing the foundation papers and some of those students will go on to do the higher exam. They are polishing their ability to tackle the basics regularly as a result.
It’s not too late to start the Foundation Paper Challenge now!
Are you over teaching Grade 4?
Are your grade boundaries too high? It’s important to push students, but not too much so that they switch off.
It’s hard to strike the balance but continue talking to students about the journey they are going on, regardless of their grade.
Parents and carers need guidance too!
We encourage communication with parents and carers throughout the year and we set up regular mailing lists where we share revision guides and updates.
Usually, this communication starts during exam year, but this year we started with our Year 10 parents and carers. With the last two years, we felt that it would be beneficial to start that communication early and provide additional support.
Communicating with parents and carers is as much about the relationship with the student and making them feel supported. We have the students' attention in school hours, but we can make the most of students' time outside of the classroom by having conversations with their families and even with their tutors (if they have them), helping support their educational input outside of the school gates.
Consistency is key when it comes to revision tactics
Our students like consistency, so the classroom activity shouldn’t be very different this time of year - we take the ’little and often’ approach to make sure the exam period isn’t too daunting for students.
A lot of our tactics (revision sessions, rewards schemes, etc.) start in Year 7 - we seek to get buy-in from day one and try to have these tactics in place through schooling. This means that when it comes to the exam period, students know what to expect and have built confidence in their abilities.
1. You can access Pearson practice sets for free on the Maths Emporium website at: https://mathsemporium.com/mathematics-emporium/
Listen to Chris & Mel’s The Right Angle podcast episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.
For more information on Just Maths, visit www.justmaths.co.uk and follow on Twitter @Just_Maths
Follow Pearson on Twitter @PearsonSchools and @EmporiumMaths