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This blog post was first published on the 02/12/2016.
This is the first of a series of blogs in which I will drill down into the new A Level Mathematics and Further Mathematics specifications in more detail.
First up, a look at the four main changes to teaching and learning in the reformed qualifications. In the New Year, I will blog about each of these and drill down further.
In many ways this is the most significant change to A Level Maths. While it is going to require a new approach in terms of teaching, it is also a great opportunity for longer-term development of understanding and skills across the whole qualification, giving learners time to let concepts sink in and allowing for a more spiral approach to the curriculum.
Planning the content coverage and delivery for a linear qualification requires a more holistic approach. The relationship between different topics, revisiting of concepts and skills, and opportunities for formative assessment all need to be considered and planned. Our teacher-friendly specifications have been designed by teachers to use in their day-to-day teaching, showing the way in which the content can be co-taught across AS and A Level.
We will provide a two year editable scheme of work, which includes guidance on the ordering of topics, the links between them and suggestions of how to divide the teaching between two teachers as is often the case at A Level. We are also developing a new bank of topic-based assessments, similar to those we already have for GCSE, covering procedural requests, argument and proof, problem solving and modelling that can be used as formative or summative assessments.
The large data set (LDS) is a pre-released set or sets of data that should be used as teaching material throughout the course. The purpose of the LDS is that learners experience working with real data in the classroom and explore this data using appropriate technology. It is intended to enrich the teaching and learning of statistics.
We have included some suggested teaching activities in the specification, at the heart of which is using the skills of data presentation and interpretation for exploratory data analysis. These tasks should be seen as neither required nor exhaustive. The key thing is that you are free to deliver the LDS requirement in a way which is appropriate to your individual setting, including your own experience of working with such data and the technological resource available.
Our Delivery Guide will look at all of these aspects including ideas for both technology rich and technology poor settings, and the pedagogy of working with real data. We are also working with practicing teachers, who are using LDS in their teaching, to develop free classroom resources.
One of the changes that will affect schools in different ways is the inclusion of Mechanics as part of the fixed AS and A Level Maths content. Many schools will have teachers who are now teaching Mechanics for the first time. Our specification includes much more detail in the Mechanics content to help those teachers who might not have thought about Mechanics for a while. Also our Delivery Guide for first time mechanics teachers will explain mechanics concepts and suggest teaching approaches, including guidance on how to work Mechanics into your Pure teaching. The new mechanics content has much more emphasis on the application of vectors and calculus, so it is much more natural to think of it as an extension and application of pure mathematics.
The intention is that the use of technology should permeate the teaching of mathematics, though note that this is not a requirement to suddenly teach everything through the use of technology. It is assumed that learners will have access to appropriate technology when studying this course such as mathematical and statistical graphing tools and spreadsheets, but it is also assumed that you will do whatever makes sense in your own setting.
You can spend money on software packages if you wish, but there are many excellent free options available such as GeoGebra, including many that will work on mobile phones such as Desmos.
The primary use of technology at this level is to offload computation and visualisation, to enable learners to investigate and generalise from patterns. Learners are not expected to be familiar with any particular software, but they are expected to be able to use their calculator for any function it can perform, when appropriate.
Calculators do need to be able to access probabilities from the Normal and Binomial distributions. You can do this with graphical calculators, but there are scientific calculators now that do this and they would be appropriate for any part of our specification A or B Maths or Further Maths (apart from MEI’s Further Pure with Technology unit).
To find out more, check out our specifications and Sample Assessment Materials at ocr.org.uk/alevelmaths
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Will Hornby - Subject Specialist - Mathematics
Will joined OCR in April 2014 as a Subject Specialist, having worked for OCR as a consultant on GCSE Maths reform and for many years before that as a senior examiner for A Level Mathematics. Will is the Subject Development Lead for AS and A Level Mathematics and Further Mathematics, with overall responsibility for the development of OCR’s new specifications, and for oversight and quality assurance of the MEI specifications.