Frequently Asked Questions about the 2017 changes

We have put together a list of FAQs to help with teachers’ questions. It will be updated as more details become available.


What’s changing?

Student recruitment

Teaching experience

Assessment

Use of technology

Exam preparation


Studying the 2017 qualifications alongside legacy qualifications


 

What’s the difference between the new maths A levels and the current ones?

As with all new A levels, they are becoming linear. It will still be possible to take an AS in Mathematics based on half of the content of the A level but the marks from this will not count towards the full A level – all the A level assessment will be taken at the end of the course.  The new A levels in Mathematics will all have the same content – this has been decided nationally.  The content includes some mechanics and some statistics as well as more or less the same pure content as the current mathematics A levels.  There is a greater emphasis on problem solving, modelling and reasoning in the new A levels but they are intended to be at the same level of difficulty as the current A levels.

We have produced a document that highlights the changes to content for AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics for first teaching from September 2017.  MEI has also produced a video that provides more detail about the changes.


What’s the difference between the new Further Maths A levels and the current ones?

As with all new A levels, they are becoming linear. It will still be possible to take an AS in Further Mathematics based on half the content of the A level but the marks from this will not count towards the full A level – all the A level assessment will be taken at the end of the course.  All the new A levels in Further Mathematics will have half their content the same – this has been decided nationally.  There is a greater emphasis on problem solving, modelling and reasoning in the new A levels but they are intended to be at the same level of difficulty as the current A levels. 

We have produced a document that highlights the changes to content for AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics for first teaching from September 2017.  MEI has also produced a video that provides more detail about the changes.


What is modelling and how will a greater emphasis on it change what we teach?

Modelling in mathematics is about starting with a real life situation, making assumptions to simplify and decide what features are important and which are not.  This allows mathematics to be used to provide information about the real situation.  It is then necessary to check whether the answer to the simplified situation is good enough – perhaps simplifying has ignored a feature which turns out to be important.  Modelling is already present in current A levels – particularly in mechanics and statistics.  Mathematical modelling is also widely used in subjects such as economics.  The new A levels will place more emphasis on thinking about modelling assumptions and will include more modelling using pure mathematics.  

 

What has happened to decision maths?

Following the publication of the A level Content Advisory Board report on Mathematics and Further Mathematics the content of A level Mathematics is 100% compulsory and does not include decision maths.  Further Mathematics options based on discrete maths may be developed.


Will I be able to keep using the A level text books that I use now?

The pure content of A level Mathematics has not changed much so you may find some of the teaching materials you use now are still useful.  However, the change to linear A levels and an increased emphasis on reasoning, modelling and problem solving will mean that you will need some additional teaching materials that include new types of questions and link between topics.  The mechanics and statistics content of the new A level Mathematics is different to any current M1 or S1 unit so new teaching materials will be needed.  A level Further Mathematics includes 50% compulsory content.  Some of this will be in your current textbooks but it will be important to build in links between topics and a greater emphasis on reasoning, problem solving and modelling.

When will the new specifications be available?

Draft specifications will be available when awarding organisations submit them to Ofqual in early June 2016.  Final specifications will not be available until the qualifications are accredited. 


I’m concerned that the new linear structure to A levels might put some students off opting for A level Mathematics. Can you suggest any strategies to help with this?

All A levels will be linear and it will still be possible to teach the AS content in year 12.  Students who are not confident of achieving the full A level could be entered for the AS and achieve a useful qualification in mathematics at the end of year 12.  They can then go on to take the full A level, if they wish to do so, but the AS marks will not count towards the A level grade.


Some students just want to do AS Mathematics. Can I teach them in the same class as A level Mathematics students? What about Further Mathematics?

It will be possible to teach AS Mathematics as the year 12 part of a two year A level Mathematics course.  Further Mathematics specifications will include options; at least one route through an A level Further Mathematics course will include AS content that can be taught in year 12 alongside AS Mathematics.


We don’t get many students choosing Further Mathematics; will we still be able to offer it?

Further Mathematics specifications will include options; at least one route through an A level Further Mathematics course will include AS content that can be taught in year 12 alongside AS Mathematics. Since there is no overlap between Mathematics and Further Mathematics content in the new specifications, you could choose Mathematics from one awarding organisation and Further Mathematics from another.  The FMSP are ready to offer help and advice about offering Further Mathematics.


Some of the teachers in our maths department have never taught mechanics. Will they all need to be able to? What’s the best way of getting them up to speed?

There is no need for all teachers to teach mechanics but you do need at least one teacher for each A level Mathematics class who can do so.  We offer a more extensive course in teaching mechanics for the 2017 A level.


What’s the best way to teach problem solving?

It is important to build in problem solving opportunities for all students throughout the course – these can be at the start of a new topic, during the topic or at the end.  There are some suitable resources on the Nrich site.  MEI offers free CPD for A level teachers to introduce them to the problem solving resources produced by the Underground Mathematics Project.

 

How can I assess students’ progress throughout the course?

The scheme of work we are producing will be suitable for all specifications and will include examples of questions to test students’ understanding. 


Will there be coursework in the new specifications?

No, the regulations do not allow coursework in Mathematics and Further Mathematics specifications for teaching from September 2017.

 

What will problem solving questions look like in the examinations?

Problem solving questions will vary.  You can see some examples in Ofqual’s A level Mathematics Working Group report.

How many examination papers will there be and how long will they be?

Different specifications may have different numbers of examination papers and these may be of different lengths.  For reformed AS and A levels which have started teaching from 2015, a total of 6 hours assessment for A level is typical; for AS, 3 hours is typical.

 

Will there still be a formula book and what formulae will students need to learn?

The Ofqual’s conditions and requirements documents for GCE Mathematics and GCE Further Mathematics  include appendices that list the formulae that students are expected to learn for AS/A level Mathematics and for AS/A level Further Mathematics, respectively.  Other formulae that the students are expected to use will be provided in examinations.

 

When will the new awards be available?

The earliest opportunity to be awarded the new AS level Mathematics and the new AS level Further Mathematics will be the summer of 2018. It will also be possible to be awarded the new A levels in Mathematics in the summer of 2018, although the current A level Mathematics will also be available in the summer of 2018. The new A level in Further Mathematics will first be awarded in summer 2019.

 

I have have heard there will be a large data set for A level Mathematics.  What do students need to be able to do?

The idea is that students should explore the data set using technology such as a spreadsheet.  This should form part of their learning of statistics.  The emphasis of statistics in A level Mathematics is changing to focus more on interpretation of data.  You may find it helpful to look at the Statistical Problem Solving paper of MEI’s Quantitative Problem Solving Core Maths qualification; this makes use of a large data set.  There is some guidance about the large data set in Ofqual’s A level Mathematics Working Group report.  MEI is developing advice for teachers on using large data sets in teaching.  The FMSP offers a more extensive course in teaching statistics for the 2017 A Level.

Will there be a non-calculator paper in AS and A level Mathematics?

There is no regulation requiring a non-calculator paper.  The different specifications may take slightly different approaches to calculator use.

 

What kind of calculator do students need for have for AS/A level Mathematics?  Can they use the same one for AS/A level Further Mathematics?

The national content for AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics requires students to be able to use calculators with particular features.  Options in Further Mathematics may need students to have other features on their calculators.  The features required for the compulsory content are listed below along with an indication of the calculators we know that have these features.  New calculator models come onto the market frequently so the best thing is to check with the manufacturer’s list of features.

Feature

Mathematics or Further Mathematics?

What calculators have this feature?

Iteration

Both

Any calculator with an Ans key – most modern scientific calculators have this

Summary statistics

Both

Most scientific and graphical calculators produce summary statistics for lists of data.  Check whether it is also possible to enter frequencies as well as raw data.

Probabilities for standard statistical distributions

Both

Modern graphical calculators have this feature; so do some scientific calculators.  The Casio fx-991ES plus has standard N(0, 1) probabilities.  The Texas TI-30X pro has general Normal probabilities and cumulative binomial probabilities.

Calculations with matrices up to 3 x 3

Further Mathematics

Modern graphical calculators have this feature; so do some scientific calculators.  The Casio fx-991ES plus and the Texas TI-30X pro both have this feature.

 

What’s the best way to help students to prepare for the final exams?

It is important to regularly review past learning; this will make final revision easier and also help to prepare students for questions which link different areas of mathematics.  Leading up to the examination, practice papers will be useful.  It is likely that exam boards will produce practice papers for their specifications.

Can students study AS/A level Further Mathematics on the new specifications alongside A level Mathematics on the legacy qualifications?

This might be possible; however, schools who are wishing to combine old and new qualifications in this way should contact the relevant exam board for advice.

Can students study AS/A level Further Mathematics on the legacy specifications alongside A level Mathematics on the new qualifications?

For legacy Further Mathematics there is a requirement that students are taking or have taken Mathematics. Schools who are wishing to combine old and new qualifications in this way should contact the relevant exam board for advice.